Where did time go? My baby girl is suddenly five years old and getting ready for her first day of kindergarten. Wasn’t it just yesterday I held her in my arms and sang the song with her- soon she will be stepping on the bus.
I had hoped that she could be a carefree lunch eater and able to participate in every pizza party- but that is not her reality. Around age one she was diagnosed with milk, egg, wheat and sunflower food allergies. While we were hoping that she would outgrow them by now, she still has reactions to all.
So along with the normal supplies there will be an Epi-pen and care plan for the school follow. I hope that she will not carry all my fears and worries, but that she can find a safe balance of being cautious and being normal.
Last spring we went and visited the school nurse and ate lunch in the cafeteria to feel a bit better with what she may face. We sat with her brother and were impressed with the amount of space and time they had to eat.
However in the end we talked and decided that she may feel best if she sits away from the large table. Our school offers an allergy table for kids with peanut allergies. Each child can invite one non-peanut eating friend to join them for lunch. We aren’t pushing that they eat “safe” food for her. We may ask that they not use a straw when they drink milk to be sure no stray dairy gets flicked around. I also will be packing some place mats along for her to use when she’s eating lunch just because I am looking to be on the safe side. As long has her lunch stays on the placemat, she’ll be fine.
It is very hard as an allergy mom to let go of any control of her eating environment. Let me be frank–it’s just terrifying to let her go. I mean it’s more than the fears of our community becoming a news story or being bullied on the playground. There is the reality that through accidental ingestion, someone with cheesy fingers touching a pencil prior to her then she uses it and puts her fingers in her mouth, or wanting to fit in and eating the item, or just accidentally being given something by a trusted adult- that she could have a reaction. I dread the call that says she’s had a reaction. I am fearful of someone not being aware and not treating it as seriously as it is. So as she steps on the bus I take a deep breath and try to relax that we have prepared everything for this day. Here are some things we have done to try and make it go better:
- We have talked about how sometimes things just might not be fair or able to include her. While I really hope that we can work with our teachers and parents I know that we may need to make alternate plans. Having an older son I know that they have many food rewards and activities. I will be her advocate to get her involved but I also am only human. We also have talked about the expectations and that she will eat food we have prepared and sent.
- Planning ahead for snack time. We are packing a snack box that will have options for her to have at the daily snack time. I found some snack bags that have printing on them of Disney characters to help make them fun. She also has helped to decorate the container that they will be in. I plan we will fill it with options and leave it at school. I can also send fresh fruit or veggies for her to enjoy.
- Stocking up on lunch supplies. She has always loved salami and deli meat. I have to be vigilant that it is not cut on the same slicer as cheese, they change gloves and that the meat itself is safe. However it is worth it when she can have a favorite easy to take food. Currently she is making all meat wraps and putting pretzels, chips or veggies inside. I am going to try and take her a hot meal once a week or so.
- Nurturing a relationship with her teacher and support staff. I am planning to be a presence at the school. Ironically I did not volunteer much for my sons classroom activities because many times they involved food, and since Mo was still with me, I was a stressed mess to try to keep it going and her safe. I hope that we can have some non-food fun in her classroom.
Foods we are stocking up on to have in snack box or lunch treats: squeeze applesauce, fruit cups, crunchmaster crackers, Snyders gluten-free pretzels, cereal mix (there are many gluten free options), dried fruit, raisins, Smarties, Skittles, Fritos and Starburst. She’ll also have many homemade foods in her lunches.
This week, I will put on my big girl pants and walk her across the street- stopping to take pictures of my grown-up children on the way. I will smile and wave and tell her all is well. We have been preparing for this for awhile. She is ready,it will be safe. It will be a hard day but hopefully by working ahead and laying a groundwork we can get through it and soon we will be in a comfortable routine.
What are some things you have done to prepare your child for school? What hidden mom struggles do you have? Do you have any words of wisdom for this curb crier?