Not Your Average First Day of Kindergarten

For anyone who isn't an avid reader of my blog, here's a short version of our food allergy story:

We first discovered that my son (now almost 6 years old) had food allergies when he was only 2 month old. We had given him a small amount of formula before a road trip hoping it would last a little longer in his tummy. By the time we arrived at our destination -- about 1-1/2 hrs later -- he was bright red from head to toe.

We left my daughter with the family we were visiting and rushed him to the hospital. He was breathing fine, but we didn't know at the time what was going on. They monitored his oxygen for a while and I breastfed him hoping to flush it out of his little system.

The next few months were spent arguing back and forth with the pediatrician who was convinced it was grass, or a change in detergent (because everyone knows that I would let my barely 2 month old lay in grass and I hadn't changed detergents, soaps, shampoos, or anything else) and that it couldn't possibly be a food allergy. But when I would see my little guy look like this....

I knew something wasn't right. I exclusively breastfed him just in case. Still he would have allergic reactions and we didn't know what from. I finally tracked down an allergist who did blood work to test my little guy. We then found out the extent of his allergies: Dairy, Eggs, and Peanuts. The trifecta!

The last 4 years have been spent honing in on some allergen free recipes and working hard just to keep my little guy alive! I carry Epipens and Benedryl with me everywhere he goes. I quit school (with only student teaching left before I received my teaching credentials) because I couldn't send him to daycare with his allergies. A tough decision, but one I will NEVER regret making!

Now we reach a new chapter in our lives. SCHOOL. Never have I felt so anxious in my life! Every parent goes through some anxiety, and maybe some sadness when their child starts Kindergarten. But, imagine not only sending your child to school for the first time, but putting your child's very life in the hands of people you may only have known for a few weeks. Yep, that's what happens to parents of children with food allergies.

Does the teacher know what symptoms to watch for? Does the office staff know what to do in case of an anaphylactic emergency? Will his lunch table really be clean enough to keep him safe? Will the kids who drank chocolate milk for breakfast touch my son? Will he remember not to trade his food or take food from anyone? 

These are the kinds of things that go through my mind as I get ready to send my little guy off to school for the first time. Add to that the fact that up until now (1 week before school starts) the school staff and nurse have been taking a nonchalant approach to the whole thing, reassuring me that everything will be fine and they will take care of him, and I'm feeling just a little stressed out.

So, though I am feeling a little uneasy about everything I am still hopeful that it is all going to fall into place over the next few days. My son has been fortunate to take part in a program run by First 5 that gives incoming Kindergartners a chance to "experience" the Kindergarten setting for 2 hours a day for a two week period. It's a great introduction to sitting on the carpet, working in small groups, playing with others, and following directions. It has also been great for us in that we were able to put various things into place for my son in the classroom to keep him safe and to get the other incoming Kindergartners accustomed to some of those safety practices.

If anyone else out there is sending their allergy child to Kindergarten this year, we can cry together (a la American Tail -- somewhere out there) on that first day of school as we kiss our little ones goodbye and release all the control we have had over their little lives. If you are gearing up for that still my advice for you is to start early with your paperwork and meetings. I did that and it still isn't completely ready. If anyone is curious as to specifics on how we are handling things at school let me know and I can put together a post about it.

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