It is amazing how something so simple can make such a big difference to a small child.
As M started a new school this September and is still getting to know the children in his class, we decided to invite a new friend home for tea after school. M chose C, another child who’s new to the school. I ambushed his Mum a couple of weeks ago to broach the subject of whether he’d like to come home for a play, eventually got round to passing on my contact details and finally settled on a day.
This Tuesday I left work promptly to make sure I was in the right place at the right time to pick up M, C and G. The weather held so they could all burn off their energy and excitement by bouncing on the trampoline and tearing around the paddock like wild things. I chuckled quietly to myself as I heard the 3 of them discussing the ghosts in our house and heard C promising that he would bring back his ghost-detector from home once he’d fixed it – a child with an imagination to match M’s, I thought. I fed them everything-free fish fingers, potato wedges and a variety of veggies determined by the preferences of each individual child. We even survived M having a soiling accident and successfully changed him without C being aware it had even happened.
Nothing particularly out-of-the-ordinary or revolutionary, you might be thinking and you’d be right. The bit that made all the difference came when C’s Mum came to pick him up.
“Thank you so much for having C home for tea,” she said, “he’s the happiest I’ve seen him since we made the move.” And then she uttered the magical words, “Would M like to come home to ours for a play-date next Tuesday after school?”
Before I’d even had a chance to reply, she continued “I can cook just plain chicken drumsticks with vegetables for them for tea, or you can pick him before tea if you’d prefer.”
This woman, who has swiftly become a new friend, had unwittingly just rocked my world. In the last 2 years, since we embarked on our free-from journey with M, he has been home to friends’ houses just twice. The prospect of feeding my food-intolerant child was too daunting to so many of the Mums I’d got to know during M’s first year of school that they just stopped inviting him back after school. One Mum had even told M three separate times that she’d talk to me about arranging a day and what he could eat, and then never bothered to make that effort. Needless to say, that was a friendship that quickly fizzled out as M couldn’t understand why the promised invite never came.
So, for someone who’d known us approximately 5 minutes to take M’s situation and tricky diet completely in her stride and willingly offer to have him home from school, has felt like a real blessing. We’ve got to iron out a couple of wrinkles that are playing on M’s mind – chiefly his medicines and the whole “what if I have an accident whilst I’m at C’s house Mummy” concern – but I’ve got those sussed and I think M is reassured that every eventuality is covered.
Which leaves my 7-year old eagerly anticipating the opportunity to fix the broken ghost-detector – “though I’m not entirely convinced he’s not just making the whole thing up Mummy” – and me as one happy Mummy.
*I’ve just found this article “I’m not neurotic, my kid has food allergy” which helps you understand even more about how important this sort of compassion can be to a family supporting a child with food allergies