So, a week of driver’s education has made me think about school a lot. Summer represents a lot of freedom for a kid with an allergy. Meals are always safe, because they are made in my home, which doesn’t have any nuts at all. I go to a lot of places, but I always check to make sure they are peanut free. It is a pretty stress free period of time. School introduces a whole myriad of problems to the equation, and the event yesterday made me reflect on the problems of my first high school year with my allergy.
One of the most dangerous places for a child with an allergy to be is a school cafeteria. It is literally a room filled with dozens of things that could kill you. Throughout elementary school and middle school, I had a peanut free table that I always sat at. While that allows some safety from peanuts, it introduces some other problems too. Sitting at the peanut free table, I was never really around anyone I would normally sit by, and I found it very hard to build strong friendships when I couldn’t use my lunch period to sit by my friends.
So, during my eighth grade, my family and I decided that I was old enough to sit at my friends’ table. Thus, my first year of high school was my second year that I wasn’t sitting at a peanut free table. Of course, a whole bunch of issues arise from this as well, most of them involving my allergy.
I am old enough to know what (and who) to avoid in order to keep myself safe when it comes to my food allergy, but that is only half the battle. I am simply not safe if the people I sit next to don’t take precautions with my allergy. I’m not asking for them not to eat nuts by me, because I can understand how easy it is for a parent to just whip up a peanut butter sandwich for their kids for lunch. However, sometimes I am exposed to dangerous situations because of my friends.
During my eighth grade class, I have experienced what it was like to be in the crosshairs of a game of “throw the peanut butter sandwich to the kid across the table because I don’t want it right now.” Needless to say, it didn’t really end well. During my freshman year of high school, sharing food happened a lot, so the passing and throwing of food, some containing nuts, to other kids happened a lot. Of course there is always that one kid, no matter what table I sat in, that brought a PB&J sandwich to lunch every day and thought it funny to tell me how delicious it was.
I was also exposed to bullying at the lunch table. People who don’t know any better are constantly “joking around” about my allergy. During my first year of high school, I found it difficult to go a whole lunch period with out someone “joking” about feeding me nuts. They don’t realize that that isn’t a joke, but a threat to my life. Sometimes I feel like even my friends don’t really understand how dangerous my food allergies can be.
I know this was a long post, but I feel better now that I wrote it all down. It’s just kind of frustrating, worrying for your life on a daily basis just because you want to sit by your friends at lunch. Luckily, I think it’s getting better. Near the end of my first school year, events like the ones I mentioned above happened less because my friends were learning more and more about my allergy by being around me. That’s why I truly feel that if others know more about your allergy, it makes you safer in the long run.
Until next time!
Hi Gary! I love that you have started this page to tell your story, thoughts and perspectives. My little boy is just starting school and is also allergic to peanuts. At 5 he is already stressed about food at school and staying safe. I found your site a couple days ago and we started reading your stories together. My little boy is finding comfort hearing about someone else, even older, who is facing his same challenges, so thank you for doing this and helping my little guy!
Hi Amanda! I’m so glad you like my blog! Trust me, I’ve been in your kid’s shoes and it does get better! I hope your kid begins to feel better about school. Tell him I said hi, and that I’m sure he will do great!