Monday, August 27, 2007

K.D., Food Allergy Warrior Princess

Much to my son’s surprise, he survived his first week of third grade. What’s more, he didn’t get sent to the principal’s office! I was relieved.

The first day had an interesting element to it, however. My son’s best friend is also food-allergic (to milk, eggs, nuts, and seafood), and they are in the same classroom. This is fortunate, because the friend’s mom, Kim, is also one of my best friends, and this means we can share all the classroom food issues that come up.

The first issue came up surprisingly fast.

After lunch, all the kids started coming back into the classroom before the teacher returned. One girl brought in her little carton of milk from lunch. Now, the school policy is that no food leaves the cafeteria. This is partly for food allergies, but also (perhaps mostly) to keep the carpets clean.

There’s another girl in the class, K.D., who has been a best buddy of my son and the other allergic boy since they were all about 18 months old. She’s grown up understanding food allergies nearly as well as either of the boys, and the three of them have been through thick and thin together. She and my son have always acted like siblings – they are both strong-willed, opinionated, determined to be the leader, and unwilling to back down. In other words, brother and sister in all but blood, and they’ve weathered the fights to prove it (and the teacher has already told them they can’t sit together anymore). But despite that, each of the three of them will defend the other to the death, if need be, and woe be to the person who tries to lay a finger on any of the Three Musketeers.

Guess what happened when the unsuspecting student brought the milk into the classroom. As both boys were apparently looking worried and trying to figure out what to do, their female champion tackled the problem headlong. She began chewing out the hapless milk-girl, telling her she couldn’t have milk in the classroom, demanding that she remove it and go wash her hands, and telling her the damage she could cause the stunned boys. The other girl tried to argue, but she was up against a master.

By the time the teacher returned, it was all over, and none of the kids even thought to tell her about it.

After school, Kim noticed a tell-tale itchy spot near her son’s eye, and the boys reluctantly told us about the confrontation. Kim and I asked both boys what they did while their BFF defended them. They admitted they didn’t do anything. In fact, it was clear they were both intimidated. “Why didn’t you do something?” we both asked, aghast. What had happened to all our counseling about standing up for themselves and letting an adult know when there was a dangerous situation? My son has never been one to back down from a confrontation, and certainly he’s never been shy about informing people of his allergies.

“It was girl talk… a girl argument,” he said, as if that explained it all. “I was staying out of that.” His friend agreed. It was obvious that both boys thought Kim and I were nuts if we expected them to get in between two girls having an argument. Besides, they knew their friend had the situation in hand, and if they tried to jump in, they’d just get hit by nasty female crossfire.

I know adult men who haven’t figured out that lesson yet – proof that our boys are above average in the smarts department, if you ask me.

After Kim and I sputtered maternally for a few minutes about how they need to be responsible for themselves and they can’t rely on their friend to handle every situation, we backed off. After all, an amazing thing had happened that day. Kim and I realized that we aren’t our sons’ only protectors. There are other people in this world who care about them enough to protect them.

They’re called friends.

And even if they’re only 8 years old, they make a huge difference in our lives. And we can’t thank them enough.

Thank you, K.D. We love you.

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