Okay, so, Tuesday is the first day of school. The first day of first grade. Which means our first experience with all day school and lunch at school. Lunch in the school cafeteria where peanut butter and jelly is a menu choice every single day. Deep breath.
I'm going to do my allergy fretting/freak out right now in an attempt to let go of it before that first day.
The people at Harper's school have been great partners in this endeavor - setting up a peanut free table and making time for the children to wash their hands after lunch before going back to the nut free classroom. Harper will always have her EpiPens with her for any time that those other precautions aren't enough. Still, it is going to be mighty difficult to let her go and trust that everything is going to be okay.
Some people with food allergies have to ingest their allergen to have a reaction - others can react from the presence of their allergen in the air. Harper, to the best of our knowledge, falls somewhere in between these two extremes. We know she has had contact reactions in the past - so she is affected by merely touching peanut residue - hence the table and the hand washing. One frustrating question I have repeatedly been asked, by very well-intentioned people, is how far away Harper has to stay from peanut butter to be safe. I don't know the answer to this - since we have spent much of the last five years avoiding peanuts as thoroughly as possible. You can imagine, then, why it feels so crazy to send her into an environment where she'll be sort of surrounded by people eating peanut butter on a daily basis.
Every allergic family has a different comfort zone based on a combination of instinct, medical advice, and personal experience. On the spectrum our comfort zone is pretty tight. We proceed with fairly extreme caution in most circumstances and are constantly weighing the desire not to limit Harper's life with the desire to keep her safe. (We're really all doing that all the time, aren't we?)
Preschool, kindergarten, each new step has felt terrifying - but we survived.
First grade is next - I guess it is time to take a deep breath and jump.