One of the Park City (our fancy-schmancy mountain resort town) elementary schools just announced that the entire school would be a peanut-free zone. One of their new little students is violently allergic to tree nuts--to the point that exposure could kill him.
The outrage was immediate.
Our Local Conservative Radio Talk Show Host went on the offensive, bewailing the Constitutional right of little children to bring peanut butter sandwiches to schools, about sweet elderly grannies deprived of packing homemade peanut butter cookies into lunch sacks. Then, more ominously about what the PUNISHMENT for bringing tree nuts to school could be--suspension? Actually being EXPELLED FOR EATING A SNICKERS BAR ON SCHOOL GROUNDS? The calls were what you'd expect: indignant folk hissing that "that kid should just stay home!" And "why does everything have to change for THAT kid?" And "who do his parents think they are, ANYWAY?"
(Editor's note: in defense of Doug Wright, L.C.R.T.S.H.--he's a good guy. He treads a narrow line. He has a clunky sense of humour, sort of like your dorky uncle at Thanksgiving, but he's pretty smart and reads a great deal.)
I'm sure the natural response here is indignation that someone has the NERVE to expect the school to change everything for ONE kid.
Don't you think (or as a parent, don't you already know) that EVERY child ends up with some kind of special provision? Our children are unique. They battle challenges that were rare when we were young.
Autism has gone from 1 in every 10,000 children in 1980 to 1 in every 133 today.
ADHD and ADD diagnoses tripled in the 1990's, and quadrupled in the first decade of 2000.
Asthma and allergies have skyrocketed. For any parent staring at their child's chest and willing it to rise and fall will tell you that an allergy isn't a fashionable way to "get attention." (Another caller's opinion.)
This doesn't even take into account the myriad ways that we now know about how children learn--visual learners, kids who retain information through movement, those who read words that make sense when printed only on mauve paper.
EVERY KID WILL NEED SPECIAL HELP.
My twins have gone to a strict peanut-free preschool, kindergarten and now elementary school. It has never been any sort of hardship or trauma--except for the time I forgot a Almond Joy stuck in my MacLean's pocket. I was horrified that I could have put his little classmate in danger. Talk about winning Totally Suck Mother Of The Month.
I got depressed hearing the pleasure, the self-righteousness in these "adult" voices when they talked about excluding the little allergy dude. How he should "just stay home." And when the time comes when THEIR kid needs special help, should THEY "just stay home?"
This isn't about inconvenience. This is about tolerance. Civility. Kindness. Patience. Aren't these the things we want our children to learn? Will this peanut-free ban really deprive any child of their Constitutional, God-Given right to a peanut butter sandwich? (Editor's note: cue the patriotic music, I'm the one in the corner throwing up in my mouth.)
Upon occasion, my twins require special assistance. The Todd and I do a great deal to show our appreciation to the school for their kindness and flexibility. We try to make their requirements as minimally intrusive as possible. We are deeply, deeply appreciative of our beautiful school and the lovely souls and hearts that teach and learn within it. If your kid does need special help, I think it behooves you to show appreciation and repayment of the Karmic debt whenever possible. I think sincere appreciation instead of a strident "that's our legal RIGHT!" works wonders.
I volunteered in my twin's class last year and watched as one little guy paced back and forth while the teacher talked about pronouns. It's the only way he could keep from exploding behaviorally. But, he learned. Another little girl was doodling as Miss Karen spoke. Her doodles were pictures that helped her understand the concept of "pronoun."
It was a little messy. A little noisy. And incredibly beautiful.