For the first time today, my coeliac daughter has to choose and buy her lunch without adult help.
She is 11, and will be going to secondary school in September. Her future school has invited all those joining them in September to come in for two days to experience life in a big school and meet their future classmates and their teachers.
Just so everyone knows: here in the UK, in the state-provided system (most) children go to primary school until they are 11, then secondary school from 11-16 (or 18, if they decide to stay on for further education). Primary schools tend to be small – ours is less than 200 children aged 3-11; secondary schools are bigger – hers will be about 1,100 children aged 11-18.
Schools haven’t broken up for the summer holidays yet, though exam season is finished, so Big School will be full of children, almost all of whom will be much bigger than she is, and will be buzzing.
She has been taking packed lunches to school all her life, though she did once have a Christmas Dinner. She would really like to be able to eat with her friends, so she’s gone off clutching her dinner-money to have a school dinner like all the others.
This is, of course, exactly the right time to try it out – lots of other children will be new, and frightened, and not know what to do or how to do it, and the staff will know this and make allowances. She has been away from home lots of times now, on guide camps and school residentials, but we’ve always planned the meals in advance, and she’s not had to choose, order and eat it without guidance as to what is or isn’t likely to be gluten free.
So this is quite a big step for her – and for me.