Back to school is on everyone’s mind…shopping for the perfect pencil box and folders, perhaps new clothes and shoes…a new lunchbox, even!
For the little ones, going into Kindergarten brings another level of excitement (and anxiety!). My facebook wall has been blowing up with the status updates of so many of my friends who have kids starting school this year. The emotions are running high! And why shouldn’t they be? Starting Kindergarten is a HUGE milestone in a child (and their parent’s!) life.
A little example of what I’ve been seeing the past couple of weeks as the kids go back:
“Poor ______ can’t sleep…I remember those pre-day jitters. She has attempted to sleep about 7 times now. Pray for her! New schools can be so scary!”
“…my stomach lurches every time I think about ______ starting school!”
“So…do I have to take my kid to school again tomorrow? :/ “
My son, Hudson, is starting Kindergarten in one week. And I am starting to freak out!
And not just for the reasons you might think.
Hudson is very ready for school. Our supplies are purchased, backpack is monogrammed, and first day of school outfit is picked out and ready to go. He cannot wait to meet his teacher and see if any of his friends are in his class.
My inner-panic stems from the fact that my son has multiple, severe food allergies.
Added into the normal pressure, stresses and emotions of my first-born baby going to school and being away from me for 7 hours per day (eek! excuse me while I hyperventilate for a moment!), I have the constant worry and anxiety that he might come into contact with something that he is allergic to, and that I will get the terrifying phone call that he’s had a reaction.
Hudson was diagnosed with food allergies as a baby. We had a whole slew of issues (which I’ll save for another day), but have lived very happily and safely for all of his almost-6 years. He is very aware of his allergies and very vocal about letting people know. I am not worried about him.
I am worried about others.
I am worried that he will be sat at a lunch table where another kid is eating something that is not safe. I am worried that the lunch table might be dirty and could contaminate his lunch. I am worried that kids can be super messy and gross eaters and that someone might touch his food and then he accidentally ingest something. I am worried that someone might offer him something…and this his little 5 year old self will have a lapse in judgement and accept it…the list goes on and on.
I know that we are not the only family dealing with food allergies. According to The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, nearly 6 million (8%) of children have food allergies with young children affected most. In addition, the prevalence of food allergies and associated anaphylaxis appears to be on the rise. According to a study released in 2008 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about an 18% increase in food allergy was seen between 1997 and 2007 and the prevalence of peanut allergies among children appears to have tripled between 1997 and 2008.
We are trying to be as proactive and positive as we possibly can. I met with the principal and school nurse several months ago in preparation of Hudson’s enrollment. I have another meeting today, and will meet with his teacher. In addition to taking our Food Allergy & Asthma Action plan from our allergist, as well as Allergy Kits for the classroom, nurse’s office, cafeteria and playground, I have also written a letter to his teachers explaining his allergies and offering pointers on how to keep him safe. In that letter, I provided brand specific safe snacks and treats, just in case. Hudson will take his own lunch, I’ll provide safe snacks for his classroom, he will wear an allergy alert bracelet, and his items will be labeled. Short of tattooing “DON’T FEED ME” on his forehead, I think we’re covered.And next Monday, I will walk him into his classroom, keep a brave face, and kiss my baby goodbye.
And I’ll go to my car, have a good cry, and say a little prayer that he (along with all of the kids) will have a great, safe day.
Do you manage any food allergies in your family? How did you handle starting school? Does anyone have any pointers or tips for this nervous momma?!