I no longer need to worry that my son may be allergic to bee stings. For decades my husband has told us that he himself is allergic to bee stings, though we thankfully have never seen proof of that. He also has maintained that we need to watch for each child’s first sting to see if they too are allergic.
My daughters have been stung and did not show any sign of allergic reaction. My son, now thirteen, has never had an encounter with a bee, or so I thought until recently.
We were in the swimming pool the other night and a bee was coasting on the water. I asked my son to help skim it out and put it in the garden. Don’t kill it and don’t get stung, I told him. Then I reminded him that we still didn’t know if he was allergic to bee stings.
My brave young man did as he was told and when he returned to the pool he calmly told me, “You know, I’m not allergic to bees.”
“Well, you might be.” I responded. “You’ve never been stung, so we don’t know.”
“I do know,” he insisted. “and I have been stung. I just never told you.” An amused smile came to his newly squared off, teen-age face.
Of course I bombarded him with mom questions: When had it happened? Had it hurt? Where was I and why didn’t I know about the event? He answered with the following story.
In Kindergarten, my son’s friend Caleb brought a bag full of dead bees he’d collected to school. For reasons only five year old boys can tell, those bees were a big hit with the playground set. Caleb sold them for twenty-five cents each. The boys couldn’t get enough of them. Caleb made three dollars! He gave two to my son for free, because they were best friends. None of the boys knew that bees can sting even after they die. So of course most of them, including my son, got stung. They suffered in silence, though, because even as five year old boys, they knew they should not have been involved in dead bee sales.
His story made me laugh until tears came to my eyes. I could picture all the tiny boys eagerly vying for the bees, quarters gripped in pudgy hands. (Had they not bought their milk that day?) I envisioned Caleb’s sincere gesture of friendship, bestowing not one, but two free bees carefully into my son’s hands. I could imagine the group of them stoically agreeing not to let the teacher know they’d all gotten hurt at recess.
I was laughing, yet I felt a twinge of horror at the same time. Even at the age of five my son had a part of his life I didn’t know about. He’d kept this secret from me for eight years. Now, embarking on a trip through adolescence, I can only imagine how many more secrets will be kept from me and how much more significant their consequences may be.
Though my first reaction is to worry, I’ll have to trust that my son has a firm foundation and knows right from wrong. I’ll have to have faith in the person he is growing into. I’ll pray for him daily, and I will look forward to the day when we look back on his adolescence the way we looked back on his kindergarten bee story. Then he will tell me about all the other things I don’t need to worry about any more.