Why my daughter was excluded from end-of-year school celebrations

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

Our youngest child is a funny, capable, sporty, smart and kind kid. She's always the first person to put her hand up to help and never misses an opportunity to try something new.

She's an eight-year-old with a big heart and brave soul.

She also has a potentially deadly peanut and sesame allergy, but that hasn't stopped her and it shouldn't.

If she's careful around food and people are mindful of her allergies, she moves through life like any other kid.

We've worked hard to make sure she doesn't feel different to her classmates.

She isn't embarrassed about having to carry an EpiPen or not being able to eat freely at school events. She is vigilant about asking what ingredients are in all the meals she eats. And we have a deal that if she doesn't feel comfortable eating the birthday cake at any of her mate's parties, we will give her a special treat.

This year she's had fun at school and hasn't had to worry too much about standing out from the crowd, which is why we were so surprised when a note home saying the class party was going to be at a Chinese restaurant. You see, they learn Mandarin at school and it was decided that it would be a good opportunity to practice their language skills by eating out.

What a great class excursion, for everybody else in my daughter's class, except her.

We were informed the kids would be trying a variety of dishes at a busy city restaurant and not to worry because all allergies had been taken into consideration.

Advertisement

However, simply avoiding certain foods isn't always enough - you need to be vigilant when it comes to exposure. That's why we've never taken her to a Chinese restaurant.

Peanuts and sesame are big components of Asian cooking. And even without them being in an actual dish, they are prepared on the same kitchen surfaces as other food, cooked in the same wok, and fried or steamed with peanut or sesame oil.

For some kids, cross contamination and the cooking smells could be enough to trigger a reaction.

It would be like sending my daughter out with a loaded gun strapped to her head. You just don't know when, or if, it would go off.

And that's the problem – a lack of understanding of how far-reaching allergies can be. If you have allergy kids in your class, excursions to restaurants should not even be an option. There are many fantastic places to visit that all the kids in the class can enjoy.

My child, who never opts to miss out on any class activities, has now been forced to make a difficult decision. Instead of going along and watching everyone eat food she can't eat, she's chosen to miss out and stay home.

She feels embarrassed and is sad to be left out from the fun and it breaks my heart that her body has let her down this way.

If you're reading this and you work with kids, please do some research of the seriousness of allergies and talk to the parents and kids in your classrooms and work out inclusive activities for everyone.

My daughter has years ahead of her where she'll have to decide not to attend catch-ups with friends or wait until after meals to join them. And she will do so without shame or nervousness.

But while she's still a little kid it would be great if those around her helped her to feel normal and safe.

In the meantime, I'm taking her out of school for a day of fun, because she deserves it, after being such an awesome kid all year.