The Struggle I Face When Sending My Child Back to School
As school approaches for my oldest son (6), I am overcome with a variety of emotions. I am excited, but looking forward to having a schedule again. Several vacations and lots of play has been wonderful, but it is back to reality. I am hoping I'll be able to drag him out of bed in the morning because he has found a new love of sleeping in. On the other hand, I am going to miss spending so much time with him. We have had so much fun all summer and have so many memories and laughs to share. Something that I am dreading most is sending him back into a place that I have no control what happens for 6 whole hours 5 days a week. That may sound dramatic but my son has severe life threatening food allergies. Every day that I drop him off I give him the biggest hug and say a little prayer that God watches over him for me and TRY to let go of the fear and remember to trust in Him.
I have started looking into what I need to do on my end to help keep him safe while at school. I must reach out to the school nurse, come up with a game plan in case he is exposed, supply epi-pens, hand wipes, etc. I also must contact his teacher to do the same. I was looking on Pinterest and found myself searching for allergy stuff when I cam across an article that had great suggestions for parents that have their child in public schools and some steps to take to keep their child safe.
It was a great read and had a lot of great ideas on how to prepare for the upcoming school year. At the end of the article there were a handful of comments. The first one hit me like a ton of bricks! I'd like you to know that the article I read was NOT asking the school to be peanut free. The parent commenting wasn't thrilled that the school served peanut butter sandwiches (I WOULD DIE!!!), it was simply letting you know how she and her child worked around it. This reader obviously was irritated by the comment/article and all the suggestions the parent was making. The reader commented, "If a child is that allergic maybe a separate lunchroom is in order. For many families who have a limited food budget, peanut butter and milk represents a staple and complete protein. It is unreasonable of you to ask that no child should eat it. Or maybe they should have special schools for children with peanut allergies. Or perhaps you should home school him if its so dangerous" (Blood boiling even typing this!!!).
I feel this comment is so unbelievably ignorant. If families that have a limited food budget and CHOOSE not to find anything other than a PBJ to serve their child for the few hours they are at school, then maybe their child should sit in this other lunch room that you speak of. Which, let's be honest, won't even keep my child 100% safe on the play ground if he chooses to play with yours. Children with allergies didn't CHOOSE to have their life threatened at school every day of the school year. At my son's school they have an "allergy table". Although I am thankful his school offers this so he can eat his lunch in safety, it still kills me a little inside. For him to have to be singled out and by himself or with maybe one other child during lunch time is something that has become his norm. Come to think of it, I hope that his buddy from last year will still be at the table with him so he doesn't have to sit all by himself.
My niece and nephew's school has a policy where the children who have peanut/nut products in their lunch sit at a table away from all of their friends. My niece would beg her mom not to make her PBJ's because she hated sitting alone. My sister in law would simply make her another healthy, affordable alternative and she was then able to be back with her friends. I LOVED hearing about this concept. I honestly don't know why more schools don't enforce it.
I guess the really frustrating thing for me is how some parents can be so naive and so harsh with my child's health. This allergy is something that we must face every day, every meal, every play date, every birthday party, every sport event, every movie, every vacation, every plane ride, every road trip, at every daycare, at every park, every camp, every sunday school, every holiday, every single second of our lives. Over the years we have learned SO much-as have our extended family and friends. I never would have realized the amount of planning and pressure it was to have a child with such severe reactions to foods. So I understand when some parents don't quite understand what the big deal is, I just ask that the next time you are inconvenienced by a child who COULD DIE by your child simply touching them after their yummy lunch, that you put yourself in my shoes. Maybe a cheese sandwich and milk would suffice?