Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Come September, Please Remember....

What this world needs is a new kind of army — the army of the kind. ~C. Amory

The first day of school is a momentous one for most parents and children alike. The excitement and expectations of a new year with friends. The anxiety and trepidation of a different school or an unknown teacher. Many kids, mine included, spend time picking out a special outfit, packing their new book bag, and prepping their new lunch box for another year. And I'm sure the school or the teacher have supplied a checklist of things to add to your own pile of necessary items with which to arm your child to conquer the coming year.

None of this is different for a parent with food allergies. What is different is the emails that are also sent the night before to the child's teacher, so they're aware of the allergy. My necessary items list varies because it has the ever important additions of Benadryl and EpiPens that I make sure are packed along with Scootch's new pencil and folder. That flood of school paperwork starts before school even begins because I'm filling out a step by step protocol of what to do if my child is having an allergy reaction, or possibly dying, and trying to not imagine those scenarios in my head. And instead of telling my kid to have fun and make new friends while I walk him to the bus tomorrow, I'll be going over with him the food rules; no sharing, no stealing, and no eating anything we didn't pack for him unless someone checks the label and can tell him it is safe. I have to remind him that he can't hold hands or kiss his friends on the cheek because he doesn't know for sure who had peanut butter in their lunch and who didn't.

I also know that on Back to School Night I'll pipe up that I'm the parent with the kid everyone doesn't want to have in their class. The one that makes the class parties so difficult because the food needs to come from an approved list, and stresses that the teacher makes the class wash their hands with soap and water after lunch period. The one that makes other parents get defensive because life would be so much easier if their picky eater could just eat his peanut butter sandwich in peace because that's the only thing besides waffles he'll eat on a consistent basis. And that Scootch's peers will tell my kid he's missing out because he's never eaten a Snickers, and can't get a cone off the ice cream truck, regardless of the fact that even if he did, it would make his mouth burn and he'd throw up and possibly stop breathing instead of enjoying it.

Could every one of you do me a favor? When you kiss your child goodbye before sending them off to school this September, please, just ask them to be kind. We know it isn't easy for everyone else to deal with, because it isn't easy for us, either.The fine line we walk on between freedom and safety is a hard one to manage at the best of times, but it really can mean the difference between a good day at school and a trip to the hospital. Scootch endures scratch tests, blood tests, and visit after visit to the doctor, so he definitely doesn't need anyone else to point out how weird or different he is from everyone else. He's well aware that most people don't have three different primary doctors. The fact that he won't eat what you're offering him doesn't mean he doesn't want to be friends, it just means he knows that it could make him sick. And he doesn't want to throw up on your brand new school shoes. But, most importantly, please just wash your hands after you snack on your Nutty Bar. We're not asking to annoy you, and no, I'm not proposing a nut ban on school premises (although that really would make Scootch's life easier!) I truly do know how hard it is to keep a picky eater on the right side of the weight curve. It really is just the simple fact that the friendliest hand, for Scootch, is a clean one.

Hoping we all have a safe and wonderful year!

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