Little Sam is a strange child. He is small for his age. He has fair hair that never seems to be tidy although his mother does her best. He keeps pushing his glasses up his nose - a nervous habit rather than a necessity.
Sam almost never smiles or laughs. At almost seven he still 'hates' school although he is doing quite well in the classroom - top group for both maths and reading. He seems to have friends at school and appears to play happily enough with them. Ask him anything about school though and it is as if he is mute. He struggles to say anything. There is something wrong there. His parents are worried. The school does not see a problem. Sam does not misbehave. He does his work. He participates. He does all the 'right' things. He just hates doing them. It makes him moody and discontent and hard to handle at home.
Sam also has a range of allergies, including an allergy to nuts which could kill him. He cannot even sit next to a child who has been eating peanuts without beginning to react. There is an epi-pen at school, an epi-pen at home, an epi-pen in the car. His parents, his almost eleven year old sister has been shown what to do as well as his parents. She knows what medications he takes in the morning and at night. Sam knows too.
I think that might be part of the problem. Sam knows there are things that make him ill, very ill.
He is afraid. Who can blame him? His parents do not fuss but they are naturally concerned.
Around this time of the year there are parties. At parties there tend to be all sorts of things to eat. Most of us are all too conscious that there is too much food and that much of it is not particularly good for us but we eat it anyway.
Sam will go to a party and has to be coaxed to eat anything even when his mother tells him it is safe to eat it. He does not like parties. They put him in a foul mood.
So, do I risk it? I make shortbread for friends. His family and ours always exchange a small quantity of home baking. This year I decided to experiment. I made two packets. One was bigger and the other smaller. When they came to see us I gave the bigger packet to his mother and then I held out the smaller packet to Sam and said, "Sam, this is yours. There are no nuts."
He looked up at his mother. She nodded, "Go on. Cat made them especially for you."
He reached out and took them with muttered thanks. Them, quite suddenly, there was a proper small boy grin and he wanted to know, "Can I have one now?"