Monday, November 7, 2011

The Bright Light of Friendship

by Kelley Lindberg

The Italian Renaissance artist Giotto di Bondone had it figured out when he said, “The sincere friends of this world are as ship lights in the stormiest of nights.”

My son started junior high this year, and with that milestone, I’m discovering that I continue to have to learn ways to let go. But I was recently reminded, once again, that just because I can’t always be there to solve problems for him, smooth the way, and anticipate obstacles doesn’t mean he’s on his own.

A couple of weeks ago, he attended his very first dance at the junior high school – a Halloween dance. As if it’s not weird enough seeing your child go to his first dance, I also had to contend with the idea that there would be food there. But I felt a little better about that this time because one of his friends had stepped in to keep him (and other allergic kids) safe.

Since it was a Halloween dance, the student council had planned a creepy activity where you stick your hand in a box labeled “eyeballs” or “brains” or “guts” and gross each other out. The eyeballs are really grapes, the guts are really cooked spaghetti, etc.

But here’s where the value of friendship comes in: one of the girls on the student council has been really good friends with my son (and with his allergic friend) since preschool. So during one of the planning meetings for the dance, she brought up the question of kids in the junior high with food allergies and suggested they make the creepy-feely exhibit allergy-safe.

The teacher and council agreed, a quick email was sent to one of the food-allergic parents for suggestions, and voila! We were involved in the planning and shopping and we could help make the dance allergy-safe. (And it turned out to be a truly awesome Halloween dance!)

I’ve often said that today’s kids are far more allergy-aware and allergy-accepting than grownups. This generation of kids is growing up with food-allergic classmates and teammates, where in my generation, food allergies were all but unheard-of. That makes us grown-ups less inclined to remember about food allergies than our kids, who are around them all the time.

So as my son races head-long into his rebellious teenage years, it’s comforting to know that some of his fellow teenage rebels will also be friends who care enough to keep an eye out for hazards.

Thanks, B, for being there for your allergic friends, and for keeping those lights burning in a stormy sea.

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