(Thank you so much for your feedback here and on Facebook! This post is updated below.)
It’s time for Eva to go back to school!
I think the first day of school is a source of stress for a lot of parents, especially when kids are this young. You have to get into a new routine and let your kid go off without you for a while. Once the dust is settled, I actually love the whole “go off without me” thing. Eva gets to be independent and we get a much-needed break so we can miss each other. That being said, those first days…blah.
I created a handout for her class this year. Her classroom is nut-free again (of course), but the school isn’t nut-free so I’m always a little bit stressed about whether or not the other parents will be annoyed that they have to deal with Eva’s allergies. The absolute most awkward thing about allergy parenting is telling other people what they can/can’t feed their kids because you need them to accommodate you. Nobody has ever been rude about it, but I still find the whole thing really uncomfortable.
Here’s the handout I created:
PDF version: Safe-snack-list
I definitely stressed over this one. I couldn’t decide if the photo was over-the-top or useful, but ultimately I want them to know what Eva looks like (don’t feed this kid!!) and at least I didn’t use one of the really awful ones where she’s all blotchy or hooked up to tons of machines. Plus, I’m actually hoping they talk about Eva’s allergies with the kids in the class and I thought the photo would help. It’s such a tough thing to get kids to understand, but once they really get it they turn into the fiercest little advocates and defenders.
I also stressed about how much information to share, since I feel like I wrote a damn essay about the history of Eva, but I guess too much info is better than not enough. You can see that we decided we were comfortable with cross-contamination risks. That’s going to keep me up at night for a while, but I do feel like Eva needs to take on the responsibility of managing her allergies at some point and keeping to her own snack is a good first step. I know she’ll be tempted when someone brings in something fantastic and I’ve given her plain crackers (again) but such is life. Same with birthday treats – I wish she could eat the cupcakes everyone else eats, but she can’t and I’m not going to have everyone bend over backwards to hide treats from her. That’s part of her deal and she needs to have a thick skin about it.
There are things that I didn’t include on here, but thought about. I didn’t include anything about Eva’s asthma because nobody can really do anything about that so it’s just an FYI for the other parents. I didn’t include all of the problems with sunflower oils in lip balms, sunscreen, and lotion because she really shouldn’t be rubbing the other kids that much anyway. (I hope!) I didn’t include the fact that she’s also super allergic to animals, even though she has gotten rashes from hugs before. I just…you know. I can’t ask people to lint roll their kids every morning. Crazy town! We’ll deal with that if it comes up.
Sigh. It’s hard. I feel like I sound like a stressed out micro-manager in the hand out, but since I am a stressed out micro-manager I guess that makes sense. Hopefully we can just creep through this year without any major incidents (Hospital free 2015? Maybe?) and then we’ll be that much closer to Eva being able to manage herself enough for public school. I have to keep in mind that for every stressor like this one, there are a ton of little victories that make me appreciate the kindness of people and how much help I have out there.
Virtual hug, allergy parents! Good luck for a safe school year!
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UPDATE: I got lots of feedback online today and I feel like it was maybe 80% positive, with 20% either being annoyed or offended by the handout. I definitely mulled over all the criticisms and ended up making some little changes. I didn’t listen to all of the advice and I didn’t agree with all of the advice, but I do think that many of you made some really good points about the language and how clear everything is. I didn’t soften the language about telling people what they can’t bring (no nuts ever!) but I added a thank you and clarified some other things. I also added Kyle’s information, because it was a little weird that he wasn’t on there. (Even though nobody noticed but Kyle. Poor Kyle.)
Here’s the version that went out to parents after I spoke with the teachers:
Like I said, it’s probably still annoying and offensive to some people but I felt good about it and it’s what I need to do for my family. Interestingly, the place where I apparently goofed is on the snack list, which is the only part of the letter that I wasn’t stressing. I was going to be fine with Eva just eating her snack and the rest of the kids eating things they can’t have, but the teachers weren’t fine with that so I need to create a much longer safe snack list that will be the only-foods-from-this-list list for the year. That’s actually much more of an imposition and I would bet that at least one parent was less than thrilled, but I’m also very appreciative that the teachers took a firm stance when I wouldn’t.
Overall, the response has been positive. And if it wasn’t…honestly, I don’t think I’d be the first stop on that train track to Complaint Town so if they go to the teachers or the administration I might not even know about it. That’s the thing – in a weird way, as long as people don’t bring nuts into the class and they do what I’ve asked to keep Eva safe, it’s none of my business if they’re annoyed or offended. I mean, Eva’s allergies are annoying. So until people are showing up with peanut butter cookies and telling me to go jump off a bridge, I need to make my peace with the fact that people might be put off about the hassle. I just need to remind myself that people feeling put off isn’t the end of the world.
Oh, and the rest of the stuff about her teachers and their approach to learning and the stuff they have planned? AWESOME. I’m so excited for her. It’s going to be a great year!