As anyone with a child that has food allergies knows, Back to School Night can be a little daunting. I say this because it is the night where you meet all of the new parents and teachers and get to give them your little schpiel about your child and their particular situation. For some reason, I was more shy than I normally am this year. Thankfully, my husband jumped in and helped me break the ice. "Hi, we are Ella's parents. We just wanted to take a moment to let you know that Ella has several severe food allergies." All of the people that we do not already know had the typical reaction of concern. Everyone seemed to be on board with not sending nuts and peanut butter to school. (It is the school policy but for some reason it doesn't seem to be enforced). The teacher spoke about how she deals with Ella, in regards to snacks and lunch. She mentioned that nuts/peanuts are not allowed and that one day a child brought in a peanut butter cup to have for dessert. She had to ask Ella to move to a different table. She also mentioned that they have a strict, no sharing rule.
There was a lot of discussion about Ella's allergies; a hard topic to communicate sometimes as her reactions to foods are so varied. I told them that if she even touches where a pistachio has been she is going to the hospital. Whereas, her wheat allergy is much less severe. It must seem very confusing to everyone that we keep it out of her diet, yet I am not as concerned about cross contamination. For instance, she was denied apples once because they sat on a plate next to bread. Let's be honest, I would rather that they act conservatively in these instances. But Ella can participate in baking activities, even if she cannot actually eat the end product. She has never had issues with touching wheat or eggs, thankfully. I am just very careful about washing her hands frequently.
I have nothing but admiration for teachers, especially Kindergarten teachers. This is a very challenging job on many levels. I have no doubt that I would be absolutely miserable at it. And I hate to heap on more to our teacher's already full plate.
After the group overview, we spoke further with her teacher. She is very willing to help us but I know that all of the details are making her eyes spin. I hate dumping all of this on her but it means the world to me when they are open to working with us. It helps that we are at a private school and the class is quite small. But I encouraged her teacher to call me or e-mail me if ever she had a question about something. We also agreed to create a snack box for the classroom that will hold goodies in case another parent decides to bring in sweet treats without warning.
Beyond that, I also asked that parents give the teacher advance notice about such desserts so that she can let me know and I can attempt to bring in something similar. I brought up the fact that I am a crazed screwball who welcomes a challenge and can make almost anything. And I mentioned the blog. No doubt several people consider me to be a bit of a whack-a-doodle. So be it. If it keeps Ella safe, that is all that matters. I also made sure that they know that we are not dumping off our problems on them. This is our situation and we own it. We are not about making extra work for other people. We just want to keep our kid healthy.
These little conversations have to happen and I felt so much better after that night. Starting a new school with new people can be scary. But it is so good for Ella on many levels. She really is just a normal kid, after all. Hopefully anyone who might have doubts about us with have a chance to see how beautiful and smart she is. It will be nice when they see her as something other than "that kid who is allergic to everything."