My little man is off to pre-k. He has been going for two weeks now, three days a week. The cool thing about his school is that he knows his teachers from a short summer program he attended, and his one teacher is a friend of a close friend, and we kind of know her. She happens to know M* very well, and is fully aware of his allergy needs. I am learning from her just how to provide for M* in the future, what to say to teachers to make them aware, and I’m learning that it is okay to advocate for my child. It isn’t a problem, or an inconvenience. It is a necessity and an education for others as well. I hope that our experience helps others in this situation.
Starting with things as simple as making sure he goes to school with a full tummy so that he isn’t tempted by other kids’ snacks before it is time, it is imperative to prepare for the full day. If he is full and happy, he can wait until everyone else is situated and then have his teachers help him find a clean place to put out his snack. He has a folder in his backpack where the teacher and I can communicate, as any child would have, but ours is specifically regarding food.
His backpack has a little pocket with his EpiPen, Benadryl and dosing sheet, list of allergens, and list of perfectly safe common snacks. His teacher has sent me a text message already, double checking on a particular brand of juice, and it was so reassuring to know that she is actively thinking about this. Once he gets to elementary school, this may change, since I know the classes will be larger. It is my hope that M* will find his voice and be aware of his allergies and just how important it is to be careful of what he eats.
We provide a box of both sweet and salty M* safe snacks to leave at the school so that the teacher can put out what is closest to what everyone else is having. She tells me when there is a birthday in the class so that I can pack a special treat so he doesn’t feel left out. Thinking ahead, I know this will be the hardest for him to deal with as a kid. Those days I also have to send in a special drink, in case the snack has milk sent in with it. That is one of my biggest fears. Milk is a huge trigger, and would send him into anaphylactic shock immediately. I say my prayers so hard on those days. I know he is being watched, and is not inclined to try anything new, but it still makes me worry.
School has been just amazing for our family. In the last three weeks, I have seen my toddler transform into a true “kid”. He recites his letters and numbers, yells out the month of the year (Sep-tem-berrrr) while he should be napping, sings random songs, and if a timer goes off with a bell sound, he declares it is time to clean up. I just love it! In the grand scheme of things, food allergies are the least of our worries. He is healthy, happy and growing like a little cute weed.
What a blessing to live in an age where we can find out what is wrong when something happens. We have access to food, water and friends when we are in need. Allergies are confusing and scary, but with consistent actions and careful planning, it is a lot less daunting. Every day with my M* teaches me something new, and I am grateful for the moments where I am not in control. They teach me to be grateful for the miracle that is normal, everyday life – like preschool and all of its crayon-covered glory.