Starting Kindergarten is a milestone for any mom. We chose the preschools our kids attended; we admired the teachers and loved the open play areas. We picked schools that were very nurturing and matched our faith beliefs. For dear son, we were lucky enough to find peanut free preschools and wonderful accommodating staff members.
But Kindergarten was at the public school. It was all day long. The bus was full of big kids. The whole school was full of big kids. All these big kids seemed to be eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!
This was the summer son had a couple odd allergic reactions also – a swollen eye at a friend’s house and another after a minor league baseball game. We suspected in both cases he had peanut dust on his hand and then rubbed his eye. The stress level for me was high that whole summer.
Early conversations with a public health nurse were frustrating. I had not filled in my part of the health forms correctly. Our wonderful allergist had not filled in his part “correctly” either. The forms had to be redone. The nurse seemed more concerned with regulations than with my son’s safety. The clinic aide thought I was overly worried and said I would be calmer as my son grew. Well, yes, I WILL CALM DOWN IF THIS YEAR GOES WELL!
On the plus side, our daughter was a rising 3rd grader and very happy there. Our principal was extremely supportive. A friend’s son with food allergies had done well at the school. I was an active volunteer and knew many of the parents. Dear son was responsible and mature for 5 years old. Dear husband was very supportive and able to attend meetings. Our son ended up with a wonderful teacher and aide.
The Kindergarten year was the toughest for me and our now fifth grade son. But it was full of blessings also. Here what I learned:
- You and the school staff share the job of keeping your child safe. You both want the child’s safety with the least inconvenience to others.
- Keep the food rules for your child simple this first year. “Only eat food from home” was son’s main rule.
- Our son had alternate safe treats from home. For us, this was a better approach than insisting his food allergies be included in every celebration.
- Even when everyone has the best of intentions, unexpected crises will come up. Have a good attitude when working with the school.
- There is no substitute for popping in – especially for lunch in the first couple weeks.
- You will find kindness in people from whom you did not expect it.
- Rules and regulations are no substitute for common sense.
Good luck to all those with food allergic kids starting Kindergarten this fall!