“What about chickpeas?” I asked her. “Are they allowed in school?”
She sighed. “Well, I don’t know how far the school wants to take the policy.”
“I’m not asking the school,” I replied. “I am asking you. It’s your kid. The school seems to think chickpeas are fine.”
“Well, chickpeas are the closest relative of peanuts,” she responded. “But, he’s not in your children’s class.”
Our preschool, you see, is nut-free, but the administration seems a bit hazy on the exact parameters of that ban. Clearly, no peanut butter is allowed, because if Zach went out to play in the yard with some on his fingers, he could leave it behind for another child to touch. Ready-made anaphalactic shock. But, when I asked about chickpeas, no one seemed to know the answer.
My eldest is incredibly picky. Peanut butter is his largest source of protein. And not being able to pack it in his lunch is a giant pain in the ass. Not, however, as much of a pain in the ass as it would be for this other child to end up unconscious or dead. That would suck even more than my kid doing without peanut butter at lunch.
So, despite the sensory issues and complicated eating, I support the nut-free policy. In fact, I think all schools should go nut-free. These kids cannot go on playdates, they cannot fly on airplanes, they often cannot eat in restaurants. It seems that maybe the school should be a safe zone.
To address my son’s need for protein, I have switched breakfast and lunch. My kids eat peanut butter in the morning, then I pack little Mr. Finicky muffins in his lunch box. I feed them their breakfast in their pajamas so none gets on their school clothes, then scrub their hands and faces and brush their teeth before taking them to school. And all the while, we talk about why we must take these precautions.
Zachary is well aware there is a boy in his school who is allergic to peanut butter, although he is mostly really concerned that the child is allergic to chocolate, which he classifies as a huge tragedy. He knows that it is everyone’s responsibility to keep this child safe. And he does not begrudge it. So, why should I?
Seems to me this is the perfect opportunity to teach about community responsibility for looking out for one another.
In the end, we decided spinach with a chickpea base is OK, as long as I tell the teachers to carefully wash hands before the kids are allowed out in the play yard. Together, we are coming up with the solutions, because I am pretty sure she cannot keep her kid safe all by herself.