Saturday 17 September 2016

All About Elle

I am not posting as often as I normally would. No, I didn't start a cult, join Trump's election team or move to New Zealand to learn the Hakka.

I've been doing, you know, life. We had a busy fun summer, we got a puppy, who is currently trying to chew my fingers while I write this, oh, yeah, and I wrote a book. Well, I finished a book that I have been writing for two years and, just like Justin Beiber always says, books are hard. It should be out in the next few weeks so I apologize for the delay in posting.

Honestly, I wasn't going to post today but something has come up and we need to talk about it.

I need to tell you about Elle. 

Elle's mom Jenn and I are sorority sisters which means that we've known each other since the Cretaceous period. Elle is eleven years old, she is bright, and funny and a good friend. Elle likes to dance, camp and roll her eyes at her mom every once in a while, just to remind Jenn that she is raising a tween girl.

Elle was diagnosed with Celiacs a little over two years ago.

Since then, Jenn has completely embraced this new life for Elle and the rest of the family. They still go camping and zip-lining and Elle never misses a dance recital. But it hasn't been easy. Finding foods that Elle can eat at friends houses and family events is always a challenge for any mom of a Celiac. Jenn, however, has taken it all in stride and has always done a great job of making sure that Elle's Celiacs is just a blip on the radar and not a big deal. Which is important for kids.

However, Jenn has run into a major problem this week and I just need to share the issue. Elle started Junior High. Ugh right? Junior High. The apex of awkwardness, judgement and general misery in our lives. Junior High is hard. The kids are still kids but they want to be independent. They are figuring out their own uniqueness while trying desperately to fit in and avoid being the target of the mean girls.

Being a Celiac in Junior High must be tough. Not all kids would understand your disease and wouldn't really care enough to learn. Plus, it's not like it's a comfortable disease to talk about with a bunch of awkward tweens. What young girl wants to discuss her colon or small intestine with new friends. Brutal right?

 Along with the regular classes kids take in Junior High, there is the added bonus of the options classes. These are different for all schools but in general include things like; drama, art, robotics, sewing, and woodworking. My own woodworking class was a complete disaster and my teacher told me never to work with power tools again. A rule I have stuck to fastidiously to this day. There is also the cooking class, where you learn all about how not to die of starvation after your parents kick you out of the house.

Of course, for Elle, this poses a challenge. There are a great deal of ingredients that she can't eat and some she shouldn't really even handle. I have stopped making things with wheat flour for my family because I often feel a little ill even if I wear gloves.

So Jenn decided to make it a little easier on her girl. Not in a Beverly Goldberg smother mother type of way, but in a reasonable, logical way. She contacted the teacher of the cooking class and advised her that Jenn would provide Gluten Free ingredients for Elle. She would also supply all the tools needed to complete each recipe. Since the kids work in groups, Jenn offered to provide enough GF products and tools for Elle's ENTIRE GROUP. This way, Elle could fully participate in all the activities and get to eat the finished masterpiece. Totally reasonable right?

Brace yourself.....the teacher said no. 


No, that she wasn't willing to adjust her plans at all to accommodate Elle's needs. 

I can't even...

This isn't some crazy mom who says her kid has a fear of chocolate (a condition called xocolatophobia I have recently learned) and insisting that no one has chocolate in the entire school. This is a Mom of a kid, WITH A DISEASE, that is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure her kid gets all the same experiences that the other kids do. She isn't expecting the school to do anything at all, they don't have to spend their budget, they don't have to hire new people, they don't even have to even tell the other kids really. 

They just have to allow it.

 And they won't.

I am so angry about this situation, my blood is boiling. Our society is often struggling to find the balance between accommodations and over compensation. If one person needs something, does the rest of the world have to adjust? I say yes, within reason of course. If the person's accommodations effect the rest of the population in a negative way, then we need to find a different way. But if that person's accommodations make no difference or indeed, improve the life of those around them, then it should happen. 

Why? Because we are human. We are part of a rich tapestry of different humans all living together in this world. We are each unique and it is that uniqueness that makes our world the amazing place it is. When we embrace our differences, and open our hearts and minds to the individuality of others, we become better people. 

Wouldn't that be a nice thing for Elle's grade seven class to learn this year? Wouldn't it be lovely if they were taught inclusion, patience and tolerance for other's accommodations. Wouldn't it be delightful if they learned that we can all be different and still be friends? 

Wouldn't it be nice if Elle's classmates learned a little humanity on the side of their main dish? A touch of tolerance added to their cooking class curriculum certainly couldn't hurt. Plus, some of them might even learn a bit about cooking Gluten Free, which again, doesn't hurt. 

So, if Elle's cooking teacher is reading this. I'm so sorry that you don't value her enough to make a few changes to your teaching plan. I'm so sorry that you don't see how important it is for her to feel like a part of the group or, more importantly, to show the rest of the class how important she is, and therefore, they each are. I am really hoping you are refusing to accommodate her based on a lack of education, not because you are being lazy. Please, please tell me that Elle has to suffer because you are lazy. I would love to talk to you and educate you on the disease that Elle and I share and how it is nothing to be afraid of, it's nothing to shy away from and it's certainly more common than you think. I encourage you to rethink your stance on this, because it is a brilliant opportunity for you to teach more than just cooking.

I know Elle is going to be great at Junior High, if she's anything like her mom, she going to kick ass, take names and smile a whole lot. It would be great if her school could make it a little easier for her but if they choose not to? That's their loss, not Elle's.

 Elle knows she is amazing, she doesn't need her cooking teacher to be kind to her to know that.