Food Allergies Don’t Stop for School

 

At 2.5, my first daughter, Micaela, had participated in quite a few social activities including Kidville, My Gym classes, Mommy & Me in an Italian immersion school and she was at that time starting Pre-K 3 within the Italian School.  (They let her begin early since she had been in the school with mommy & me for over a year and she was familiar and comfortable with the teachers and facility.)

Since my second daughter, Madeline, has not yet done half of the classes Micaela compleated, I wanted to get her involved with a preschool program this September. I guess sometimes with a second child life is just a bit more busy and things seem to pass by without even realizing, or at least that is what happened to me…

So preschool for Madeline was a priority.  But wait, what do I do about her food allergies?  How can I possibly leave her with complete strangers for a few hours a day and not have my heart sink down into my stomach every time I leave her off?  It’s difficult. I don’t want to hold her back, but I really want to ensure her safety.

The pre-school Micaela currently attends also has a separate program geared specifically for 2-3 year olds. Perfect.  I did some due diligence and spoke with other moms to get a feel for how they liked it and I only heard great reviews.  So I contacted the director to inquire about applying and let her know all about the food allergy situation.  Throughout our email conversations, I felt very happy and confident.  It sounded as though they have had other children with food allergies before and they felt very comfortable ensuring each child’s safety. Also, the director seemed to be open to working with me on snacks and any special instructions I had for Madeline.

So all seemed great…

Last week was the first week of class.  On the first day, Madeline was super-excited to put on her backpack and head out to school, just like her big sister.  She had been to her classroom before so when we walked in she seemed to know where everything was located.  She b-lined right for the play kitchen and seemed right at home.

I spoke with the two teachers who would be with the class and I was surprised that they had not yet been told about Madeline’s food allergies.  Whatever I had discussed with the director had not yet been passed on to the teachers yet.  Ok.  So I established with them that I would be sending in Madeline’s snack each day.  Then when I mentioned that I put her Epi-Pens in her backpack, I felt like I had a deer in headlights staring back at me.  Whoa.  Now this is not the reaction an already-nervous Mom wants to see.  The teacher then went on to assure me they had both been trained in th use of an epi-pen, but for some reason I had this nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I then went on to bring up this situation later during the parent orientation portion of the day.  When the director asked about any food allergies, I raised my hand.  I initially planned on discussing this in private with her, but, she brought it up… so I proceeded to state how uneasy I felt when I mentioned my daughter’s Epi-pens in her backpack.  By the look on her face, I’m sure the director didn’t appreciate my negative feedback in front of the other parents, but it’s something very serious and I thought they should all hear how I felt.

So the back and forth went on for a few more conversations.  I even offered to do a quick epi-pen and anaphylaxis training myself, but everyone was still assuming me that “I had nothing to worry about.”

I just don’t know why… mothers intuition I guess… but I still felt strange.  And not just the normal mom-nervous-about-leaving-my-daughter-in-pre-k feeling.  I just wanted to feel certain that if there was an emergency that it would be handled properly, and I didn’t like feeling as though everything would just miraculously “be fine” and I wasn’t supposed to worry.  I needed to be 100% certain or else Madeline would not be attending this school or any school right now.

As I stood in the hallway, waiting to pick up Madeline on her second day of class, I still needed a better answer and I felt like speaking with the director again would be “like beating a dead horse” (I hate that expression but it just seemed to be going nowhere.)  I then decided to go over everyone’s head and speak with the school’s headmaster.  When I walked into the office to see if she was free, she was actually putting together some instructions for a teacher who had a child in class with severe allergies to what seemed like all the top 8 allergens.

Finally, I was able to have a conversation that made me feel so much better!  She was able to explain the training that all of the teachers undergo, she explained how they handle any severe incidents (and explained that they have only had 2 over the past 10 years,) at which point they would call 911, that they have additional Epi-pens in the office… she went on and on and finally I could feel th knot in my stomach loosen.

That’s all I wanted to hear.  Some assurance.  Some confidence.  Some answers about the situation my child may have to face while away from me and being taken care of by her teachers.  It felt great. I was so glad that I kept being persistent until I got the answers that I was searching for, and hoping to hear.  I really did not want Madeline to miss out on this great experience and opportunity, but I wanted to ensure that she was in good hands.

Of course, any parent is hit with tons of emotion when their little one first begins going off to school.  For parents of children with severe allergies, this emotions can be overcome by fear of something terrible happening to their child just by eating something they shouldn’t or can’t.  It’s an awful feeling, and in my opinion, you should not be afraid to do what I did, and make sure you feel confident before leaving your little one.  Get the answers you need, hear the strategies they will carry out and don’t feel embarrassed or uncomfortable.  It’s not always an easy task and along the way you may feel as though you are being a burden… but these are our children!  Trust me, you will feel so much better that you did it… I do!!

xo,

Nicole

 

PS – To also make myself feel better about Madeline being in school for a few hours, I found this adorable bracelet below.  It is a child’s emergency bracelet and comes with all the “buttons” for the top 8 allergens so you can customize it to fit your child’s needs.  I love that she has this on as a constant reminder for her teachers and Madeline thinks it looks cool – so its a win-win!!  Woohoo!

 

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