We were playing outside this afternoon, on this gorgeous Just Right spring day. Evan was riding his bike, Max was throwing a frisbee at the van, Molly slept in my arms. It was blissful.
And then I noticed them: The Neighborhood Big Boys. Congregated around the large green utility box that separates my yard from my next door neighbor's. The three of them, all around 11 years old, were huddled together, looking at something that one of them had brought to the circle.
And then I noticed him: Evan. Watching them intently. Curious as to what they were up to...curious as to what they had among them that caused them to be so guarded, so interested.
So then I became interested. I craned my neck to see if I could catch a glimpse at what they held...
Honeysuckle. The first of the season. The sweet fragrance of the vines gave them away before I even snuck my first peek. The boys were dissecting them as I had done as a kid: twisting off the bottom, slowly drawing out the fragile stamen, licking the sweet nectar. I watched Evan watching them, wondering what they were doing...wanting to be included, perhaps, by the Big Boys (whom he so looks up to and who are so sweet to and inclusive of him--these are seriously Nice Kids...I never thought they had anything illicit), but also just curious about this Childhood Springtime Ritual.
One of the boys noticed him and motioned to him: "Evan," he called, "want some of this? It's real sweet! Almost tastes like candy!" The other two joined him: "Yeah, Evan," they said, "try some! You'll like it!"
Peer Pressure of the most innocent variety. Leave it to Beaver peer pressure.
I watched, wondering how he would respond.
Evan looked at the boys. He looked at the vines. He looked at his feet.
"Um..." he started... Would he walk over to them? Taste what they offered?
"I gotta ask my Mom."
Another unexpected benefit of living with Food Allergies....this kid asks before he puts anything to his lips. He ran over to me and asked if it was safe, if he could taste the honeysuckle. "Not only can you," I responded, "I'll join you!"
A friend once told me about a friend of his from high school. The kid had food allergies and had been coached by his parents to avoid the unsafe foods for his entire life. As he approached high school, his mom became more specific: "There's an additive in beer...in the hops...that you're highly allergic to. If you ingest it, you risk experiencing anaphylaxis. Don't try to be cool. Don't try to fit in. Just say No." The kid made it through high school without suffering an allergic reaction. After a few weeks in college, he called home: "Mom! Great news! I must have outgrown my beer allergy! I had some last night and I'm fine!" The mom burst out laughing: "You never WERE allergic to beer!" she told him, "I just didn't want you to drink!!"
I'm not going to lie to my kid...but I love setting the precedent of Talk to us if you're unsure about something. Don't act first, think second...and don't rely on the opinion of your peers. Talk To Us. I praised Evan mightily for asking before doing this afternoon...don't tell the Tiger Mom.