While it was easily one of the quickest decisions we’d made, I haven’t been happier that we pulled our son from the hippie nut ban! school. Okay, so I was happier the one time I realized that marshmallows did really weird things when they were microwaved, but I’m pretty sure that I was wasted at the time.
I was unsure of our motives, because, quite frankly, Dave and I stuck out like a pair of brightly colored, mismatched, rain-forest-chopping-down, as-far-from-eco-friendly-as-one-can-be-without-driving-Hummers thumbs. Now, it’s not as though we don’t recycle or love Mother Earth, because we do, and if you’ve been around for any length of time, you know that I garden like I used to drink diet Coke (read: obsessively).
But, according to the other parents, it just wasn’t enough. Because if we shopped at Trader Joe’s, they shopped at Whole Foods. If we shopped at Whole Foods, they organically grew their own fruits and vegetables. While I am not a competitive person by nature, the other parents seemed to feel absolute moral superiority towards us both and quite frankly, it got old after 4 years.
Adding fuel to the fire was the poor communication between the school and the parents. Like this charmer of an example. What Dave was told was that our son “ran into a fence and got a little banged up.”
What I got was this:
This picture does not do justice to how beaten my child looked. It took ALL MY WILLPOWER not to comment on it, because with Ben, if you comment on something like a paper cut, suddenly he will expect sympathy cards and ice packs. And this? DESERVED SYMPATHY CARDS AND ICE PACKS.
So I admit that I was slightly annoyed by the downplaying of his injuries, mainly because I had to rely on acting skills *I* had never honed to not shriek when I saw him. I was also several weeks postpartum at the time, so the hormones may not have helped.
The nail in the proverbial coffin was the aw-shucks sort of after-thought type letter sent home right before school was set to begin for Ben, though, at the hippie nut ban! school. Because the school was so small, you see, we had to pack lunches for our children.
Maybe for other families, this was like the heavens opening up and shining down upon them, bento boxes neatly packed with nutritious choices like edamame and perfectly cut carrot coins, sandwiched between homemade whole grain crackers and cheese made from the milk of Buddhist cows.
There were, of course, lots of restrictions about what we could and could not pack. No refined sugars. No juice boxes. No chips. No candy. No cookies. No soda. Nothing that needed to be microwaved or prepared. Reusable containers. No brown paper bags.
In theory, none of this should have been an issue.
But my darling son, Benjamin, is autistic. With food issues.
For an entire year, I tried all kinds of combinations of foods, and about 95% of the time, he’d come home with a full lunch bag, his lunch untouched. Certainly, while he was not starving to death, this troubled me.
Food issues were nothing new, but this particular medium–lunch food with millions of restrictions–was, and I was at a loss. The only, and I do mean the ONLY thing I could safely get him to eat was a peanut butter sandwich.
So the day that the leaflet arrived informing us that we could no longer pack anything with nuts, or nut oils, in our son’s lunch, The Daver and I looked at each other and (in uncharacteristic unison) said, “oh FUCK.”
(as a jaunty aside, what irritated me highly was that this was a very ill-researched ban. When pressed, after many desperate phone calls, the answer Dave got when he wanted to know how specific we needed to be about nuts–because nuts, nut oils, stuff that’s been manufactured in nut-producing facilities are in fucking EVERYTHING, was sort of a, well “ANYTHING with nuts.”
If you’re going to ban something, shouldn’t you understand it all a little better beforehand? Especially since the allergic child was a sibling of a student who didn’t even go to the school.)
So that was that, we plucked him out and plunked him into the public school system.
Where they have nut-free tables and nut-free snacks, but even better than that? THEY HAVE LUNCH LADIES.
*cue angels singing on high*
And with lunch ladies (*hums the lunch lady song*) comes lunch. HOT lunch. Lunch with choices! Glorious, glorious choices! Every single day *I* am not responsible for providing food for my son! If he doesn’t eat? I am none the wiser.
I no longer have to sadly throw out the old, pathetic, stale and untouched sandwich each night. I don’t have to throw out uneaten shriveled carrots, looking remarkably like flaccid penises (penii?), wondering how my child will gain weight. Nor do I have to flip coins or play rock, paper, scissors with The Daver to determine who is unlucky enough to have to try and make Ben a lunch he’ll never eat THIS time.
It is with great pleasure, pomp and circumstance that I write out a check every month to the lunch ladies, signing my name with an extra dose of pizazz because I am just that mother-fucking happy to be letting someone else cook for my child. I would TIP the lunch lady if I could, I love her so much. I might even bear her children, if she asked me.
And if, for some reason, I had to pack my son a lunch, I could EASILY pack him, like Dave and I were always tempted to do while Ben was at the hippie nut ban! school: a 5 pound bag of white sugar and a can of Mountain Dew. I don’t think ANYONE would say anything.
God BLESS the public school system.