I have never been a big fan of shows such as Law & Order: SVU. It has nothing to do with the cast or the format. It has to do with the plot lines, particularly in the show’s first years. Airing these types of gruesome, perverted acts always left me wondering if it was titillating to the gruesome and perverted, who might be sitting on their sofas looking for new ideas.
Yesterday my son came off the school bus and promptly announced that he learned of a new way that kids are bullying at school. They are using food to threaten food allergic kids. It said so right on the cover of his weekly Scholastic News.
At that moment I tried hard not to let him notice that my heart had just sank into my stomach. This was not new to me, of course, but it was something that I had not mentioned to my son yet. Stories of food allergy bullying have been in the news and I have read the studies. However, I know my severely food allergic child well enough to not give him one more thing to worry about. He is extremely conscientious when it comes to his allergies, and he has a fabulous group of friends at school who are naturally protective of him. He is fairly well-liked and handles it all really well most days. Yet he is a worrier, and this is precisely the type of news that can keep him up at night.
No ten year-old should be up at night worrying about whether someone will kill them, with a peanut no less. My son has no idea how many times I have woken up in a deep sweat having had this very nightmare.
When he was diagnosed at the age of two, my husband’s biggest fear was that some kid at school would try to play a trick on our son and put a peanut in his sandwich lunch. He said that it was just the type of stupid thing he and his buddies could have done in their day, when nobody had life-threatening food allergies. That is still my husband’s biggest fear as the father of a food allergic child.
So when my son came off the bus with his Scholastic News I had that same feeling as I do when I see commercials for Law & Order: SVU. Why give the bullies kids any ideas? What if someone is not a “typical” bully but just does not like my son? Why did this need to be printed? And why did my son have to sit in that classroom feeling like all eyes were on him yet again while the kids were reading this to themselves in class?
Of course, the logical side of me knows that there was absolutely no harm intended. This well-written piece was printed and given to the kids to raise awareness of the severity of food allergies and I should be grateful for that awareness. It was done to inform the 90% of kids who do not have to live with this on a regular basis that putting a peanut in a child’s lunch could literally kill him, and there is nothing satisfying or funny about that.
The very moment my son walked through the door from school I knew that before bed he would break down in tears, and it happened like clockwork. Last night I tried to calm his newfound fears that this type of bullying could happen to him, I secretly worried about it again too. While I love that we as a society are trying to tackle the bullying epidemic, I just hope that we can do it without adding fuel to the fire.