Thursday, August 21, 2014

going nuts

Today was the first day of dayschool that 8 yo did not get to attend. Wait, this came out wrong. Today was the fourth day of homeschooling for us, and the first day of school for a whole bunch of other kids. Yesterday was also the day when many moms kissed their kids good-night and stood in front of their refrigerators, pulling their hair out.

Why is packing lunch so difficult?!

There are likes and dislikes. There is the problem of a very short lunch period and lack of refrigeration or hot lunch options. There are picky eaters. There are school kashrut policies. There are allergies. 

Allergies, as in, my child is allergic to X, so I am careful not to pack X in my kid's lunch. There is another level: if my kid is exposed to X, not in his lunch, but in someone else's lunch, he might have a reaction. But the schools choose to take it further: since there are a few very allergic kids, let's send a letter home to parental body telling them not to send in any food that is manufactured in a facility with possible allergens. 

When we lived in Houston, 10 yo was in a class with kid with airborne allergy to nuts. Do you know that most bread, crackers and snack items are made in facilities which are not nut-free? Do you know how hard it was to pack that lunch? Do you know that my kid ASKED for PBJ for every shalishudes as a special treat?

I have to give it to the school there: the school was nut-free, but this classroom was the only one which was "processed with nuts" free. The allergic kid's mother took it upon herself to provide classroom snacks and party food, both to make sure that her kid was OK, and to make it easier on other parents.

When we just moved here, my husband was approached in shul and asked: "Wouldn't it be great if the whole school would ban "made in a facility which may process nuts"? Wouldn't it be a great chesed?" He responded: "No! Why would you impose it on everyone else?"

This year the school went processed-nut free (or whatever is the proper terminology). And the hair-pulling is starting.

The policy is unenforceable. Can you tell by an unwrapped cracker whether it was made in a shared facility or not? Additionally, most of us do not have nut-free kitchens, so whichever airborne nut particles are circulating in our homes, they might end up on those lunches. Finally, many kids eat lunch in their classrooms at their desks (don't get me started on that one!), so their food does not leave the room. Why make every classroom subject to harsh rules when the problem occurs only in a few of them?

But there is a deeper problem here. The school thought that it is OK to impose this policy on the entire parental body, all for the sake of being able to provide a Jewish education to a few kids. The school also deemed it inappropriate to inconvenience its teachers for the sake of providing a Jewish education to kids who do not fit their strict box. I am not talking about my son with anxiety here, or kids with learning disabilities. I am talking about kids who did not get accepted to KINDERGARTEN! 

Why the hypocrisy? Does it really make the school look good that a deathly-allergic child can attend (and we are inclusive), but a rambunctious 5 yo has no place? And what will be next? Let's make a school germ-free, so a kid with chemo can attend! Let's go gluten-free, so that gluten particles do not affect gluten-sensitive kids. No food at all, because, G-d forbid, somebody else might be allergic to something.

Perhaps, if your child is that allergic, maybe you should consider homeschooling, instead of imposing your restrictions on everyone else. Perhaps you should take responsibility for your child instead of saddling the community with that burden. Perhaps you should talk to the school about bringing in a hot lunch program that will be up to your specifications (and sponsor it, too). Perhaps you should try allergy desensitization: your child's whole entire life will not be nut-free.

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