The Secret I Shared with the Family of a “Spirited” Child

What I told the family of the spirited child in the hotel restaurant  Pamela Price for RedWhiteandGrew.com

Since my last post here my mother has been in the hospital twice, I finished the formal first draft of my second book, and we took a two-week vacation to England and France.

Phew.

While I was abroad, GHF hosted another blog hop, this time on being gifted (and dealing with giftedness) at different stages of life. It was on the very same day of the hop that this story happened, in a hotel dining room just steps away from the Arc de Triomphe. As soon as it occurred, I knew that I’d be writing as my response to the hop.

There we were again. At breakfast in an swanky urban European hotel with a specific, rowdy 2-year-old boy determined to make his presence known in the world. The child was verbally precocious for his age, and his energy level hinted at inborn psychomotor overexcitability.

Just my kind of kid.

His own parents looked stressed, anxious. Having talked for years about parents of gifted children needing to feel acceptance, I sent hubby and my own kid upstairs. Then I nursed my cup of tea as I waited to strike.

The little boy is the one who gave me the invitation to engage. He locked eyes with me and held the gaze, his dark eyes flashing a deep recognition of someone at once new and friendly.

“Well, hello, there,” I said. His eyes widened, stimulated by my receptivity to his being. His body gave a wiggle.

His loving, highly attentive father–already used to strangers’ frequent judgements and thus conditioned to try to right perceived social wrongs–began to apologize for the interruption of my tea sipping.

With target locked, I moved in for the kill.

“Oh, no. He’s not bothering me one bit. He’s wonderful.”

The mother looked up.

“He’s. . . exhausting?”

“He probably is,” I replied, leaning in with a whisper, “But the most challenging little ones often become the most intelligent, the most interesting when they get older.”

Joy and relief spread across her face. She pushed back her chair from the table and relaxed her arms as she opened her body to me in a gesture of connection.

“That’s what my mother keeps telling me!”

“Just you wait. It gets better.

She smiled and shot a look of  relief to her husband. He grinned.

Beneath the table the boy giggled and tried to make eye contact again. There was a time in my  own life when I would have judged the parents harshly for not making the boy stay seated. That time is long gone. As long as parents are clearly engaging with a kid (as this couple was), I now figure that such behavior is a manifestation of something other than disobedience, something in a child’s own wiring.

Instead of judging, I looked right at that spirited, jubilant little face, and tapped into all the love in my heart, all the while thinking a little acceptance from a stranger would keep him open to the world rather than shut him off from it.

“Bye-bye, love. Have a good day!” I said.

He waved happily.

“BYE!”

As I made my way to the hotel elevator, I caught site of the father smiling broadly at his wife as he lifted the boy high into the air. The woman moved her chair forward, sat up a little straighter, and reached out for her teacup. Their own conversation resumed with noticeably less self-consciousness.

Indeed the lilt of the mother’s sweet, gentle laugh stayed with me as the elevator rose up, up, up.

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Why Food Allergies and Middle Schoolers Can Be a Dangerous Duo

Actually, food allergies and middle schoolers can be a dangerous combination
The issue of food allergies in middle school and high school is an important, complicated one for parents and schools to keep in mind. It would be helpful if other community members–parents like Main Line Housewife and high-profile authors like Lenore Skenazy (writing here for Reason Magazine)–would become better educated on the topic and less prone to criticizing educators for trying to protect students.

Although young people may know what to ask about foods–and may have practiced for years to avoid a known allergen, they may in puberty experience anxiety, peer pressure, bullying, and a false sense of adolescent confidence that they “know” a food is safe.

This can be dangerous.

Also risky are the blanket assumptions people make about food. Let’s take the case of the photo (above) making its way around the Internet. An “Oreo” may be the kind with which we grew up–or it may be a generic brand. Different manufacturers use different processes, and cross-contamination in one facility baking the “same” cookie can make a familiar food fatal for a severely allergic child.  For these reasons, it’s vital to keep in mind that an “Oreo” may mean one thing to one person and something else to another.

There are other questions, too: Who unwrapped the cookie? Did it sit in a bowl that held peanuts or another allergen? Did the person who distributed the food wash her hands and use gloves?

Obtaining answers for these questions in a school setting demands that a child be willing and capable of asserting herself with teachers and peers. If these same people shamed her for speaking up in the past–or mocked her for her disability, then she may be reluctant to be thorough in her inquiry. If she has a comorbid disability (including ASD) that prevents her from articulating her needs, then she’s at even greater risk.

Want further proof that older kids are it risk of being injured or killed form food allergies? Take a look at deaths from food allergies in recent years. You’ll find many of the kids are preteens and teens who “thought” it would be okay to just take a bite like everyone else.

Sorry, Internet, but there’s nothing “insane” about trying to protect young people by engaging their parents via a slip of paper. In fact, it’s an incredibly compassionate and responsible thing to do. (P.S. It’s also educational for all parties.)

And just think: all it may require of you personally is to read and sign a permission slip.

Pamela Price is a Texas-based blogger and author. She also homeschools a food-allergic child. Her second book, on bullying and gifted kids, is due from GHF Press in 2015. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

This post is dedicated to the many kind, loving parents and educators who willingly make simple adjustments and gracious announcements with forethought for the safety of all students, including those with food allergens.

 

Food Allergies and Middleschoolers | Pamela Price for RedWhiteandGrew.com

 

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