Saturday, February 11, 2012

Stalking Your Food-Allergic Teenager

O.k., so I just did something I'm not at all proud of...I stalked my kid.

My son announced cheerfully a couple of hours ago "I'm going to meet my friends for lunch - can I take your car?"

"Sure," I replied. "Where are you going?"

"Panera," was the response.

Crap, I thought to myself. Panera is one of the places we avoid like the plague. In addition to serving peanut-containing dishes, virtually everything there contains milk. He's never eaten there. However, I don't want him to restrict his social activities because his friends choose to meet at a restaurant he can't eat at.

He can tell I'm uncomfortable. "I'll just get a salad," he says.

"Wait, wait!" I say as he's grabbing my keys. "Make sure you talk to the manager! They don't post ingredients on their web site so you HAVE to talk to the manager! And take your medicine bag! And your phone!"

...and he's out the door. He's heard it all before.

As the minutes tick by, I'm getting more and more uncomfortable. Was I firm enough about the talking to the manager thing? Will he really do it? Is the risk from cross-contamination just too great, regardless of whether he does everything right? Am I a bad parent for trying to give him this freedom to prove he knows what he's doing?

Next thing I know, I'm in the car. After all, I have to eat lunch too, right? And there's nothing that says I can't slink in, spot his table and avoid being seen, right?

I go in. I order. I spot him at a far table, next to the drink machine. Crap! It's going to be hard to get a drink without him seeing me, but he seemed engrossed in the conversation, so if I pull my hood up, I should be fine. I pay. I turn toward the drinks.

OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG! He's sitting with a GIRL! A GIRL! Oh man, this is a thousand times worse than I thought it was going to be. If he caught me stalking him when he was with just his friends, he'd be mad but it wouldn't be that big a deal. But this? YIKES!!!!

I walk sideways like a crab toward the drinks. Yes, I could have just skipped the drink, but I am a true iced tea addict. Plus, he's oblivious. I know I can do it. I get my drink and, even though I could reach out and touch him, the huge coat and weird walk does the trick.

I take my meal to an entirely different part of the restaurant, slump down and consider what to do next. I can't really sit here and be seen...I can't check up on him directly. What about a text message?

Crap. My cell phone is in my car...the one he drove.

I wolf down my meal, run out to the parking lot, find his (my) car. My phone is right there. Oh man, so is his medicine bag.  Now what?

I return to my car, move it out of the visual path of the car he drove and text him. RU o.k.? Did they have something u could eat?

No response. I wait 10 minutes and try again. I don't want to bug u but I just want 2 make sure yr ok. Txt me back pls! Nothing.

I call my husband. "You are NOT going to believe this!" I tell him. "He's in there with a girl, he left his medicine bag in the car and he's not answering his phone. I bet he doesn't even HAVE his phone." I'm pretty mad at what I see as risky behavior. "I can't talk to him because he'd DIE if I embarrass him in front of the girl."

"Just calm down," my lovely husband says. "You don't really know what's going on. His phone isn't here so he probably has it with him. Just take it a step at a time."

So...I move the car yet again, adjust the rear view mirror so I can see the door, slump down and take out a book to distract myself. Time passes. He hasn't come out. Wait - where's his car? GONE! I MISSED HIM!

I call home. His sister answers. "Is your brother home?"

"Yeah, he just got home, do you want to talk to him?"

"No, thanks, I'll see you in a little bit." I'm sure she thinks I'm nuts, but she's used to it by now.

I get home and he's there. Everything is fine. "So," I say nonchalantly, "what did you eat?"

"I had a plain salad, just lettuce, cucumber, tomato and balsalmic."

"And did you ask the manager?" I say, thinking I knew the answer.

"Yeah, I did," he replies. "He was really nice. He showed me the label for the salad dressing and told me they'd be careful with my salad.

"Really," I say, impressed. But then I remember the medicine bag. "You didn't leave your medicine bag in the car, did you?" I asked, thinking I knew the answer.

"Well, yeah, I did," he says, "but I took the Epi-Pen out and put it in my coat pocket."

"Oh," I say, thinking that I'm a stalker and a jerk at this point. "Well, that's great." But then I remember the phone.

"Did you get my text message?" I ask.

"What? No...did you send me one?" he replied. He actually goes and gets his phone and shows me - no text message. Apparently my crappy pay-as-you-go phone service delayed sending it for some reason.

Kid = 3   Parent = 0

He did everything right. Perfect, in fact. My husband later told me that he said the girl was a friend's girlfriend. Apparently, in my shock, I missed the friend who was also there, sitting at the next table over. It must have been about the time I started crab walking.

Someone once told me that having a child is like taking your heart and letting it walk outside your body. That's true...but my heart also spends a lot of time in my mouth.

When does the letting go start getting easier?