For most parents, the main focus of going back to school having supplies and school shopping done. Also, for most parents they don't need to worry about their child having a life threatening reaction to food. We are not most parents. My older son Eli has life threatening food allergies. He keeps his EpiPens in his backpack. Any time he leaves the classroom he is to take his backpack with him. The school nurse also has a set of EpiPens in her office. It's hard to put all of that pressure on a six year old, but it's necessary. We are very open with Eli about the dangers of him eating (or touching) food that he is allergic to.
Thankfully Eli's elementary school went nut-free last year. This has been such a relief for our family. When Eli was in preschool he had the most amazing teacher. She was sweet and thoughtful but most of all aware of Eli's special needs around the allergies. She would be in constant contact with me and keep me up to date on all things that pertained to Eli's allergies and skin condition.
Last year Eli was in Kindergarten. We foolishly expected to have the same relationship with his teacher as we had in the past, we were sadly mistaken. There were several instances in the first few weeks of school where Eli ended up at the nurses office. I never once got a phone call or email from his teacher. I reached out to her and when she did finally answer me she brushed off every issue. Parents of kids with allergies put their children's lives in the hands of their teachers during the school year. We have a very real fear that something could happen to them while they are at school.
Luckily, this year he has a teacher who is familiar with food allergies and deals with them daily in her own home. I feel like we can breathe a sigh of relief. Our fears are not wiped away completely but we know she understands the severity and the real fear that we endure on a daily basis.
I mentioned earlier that the Elementary school he goes to is nut free. I know some of the parents are not happy about this. I've heard the comments and gotten "the look". I understand some kids are picky eaters and it can be difficult to find foods that they will eat. Believe me, I would give anything for Eli not to have allergies. I would love for him to have the freedom to eat what he wants. This is a luxury we do not have. Trust me when I tell you that we don't ask for restrictions to be difficult - we do it to keep our son alive.
So cheers to all of the parents as our kids head back to school! Please be empathetic to the "allergy kids" and know that it is not a choice. Talking to a friend the other day she said she'd rather teach her kids compassion over common core - these are the people we need in our lives. Remember, these kids are young, innocent and just want to fit in with their friends.
To the teachers who go above and beyond to keep our kids safe, there are no words to express how much we appreciate your dedication. On behalf of allergy parents everywhere, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.