Like many parents of Kindergartners, we walked our daughter to school for her very first day. Unlike most of the parents around us, we were scared of the thousands of little interactions: the other students, the teachers, the staff. Anyone of them could kill her. And when we left her there, we weren’t confident that we’d ever see her again.
7:00 am – Breakfast
I wake up early to make my daughter her favorite breakfast. It is quiet, dark. I warm the skillet first, so it’ll be close to the temperature I like. I foil a cookie sheet and put the bacon in the oven. I mix the batter, cook the pancakes, putting the first two on plates to cool for the kids.
My sweet girl gets up. She’s happy, excited for her big day. We eat, my spouse going over the plan. No sharing of her food. No sharing of other people’s food. We pack her lunch and two snacks.
8:30 am -The Pictures
We head outside for the pictures. The ones we plan to send to the grandparents. The ones we will post on Facebook. The ones we plan to look at 13 years from now and wonder where the time went. I haven’t looked at them all, but this is going to be my favorite:
I get nervous as we need to be moving. We don’t get the particular shots we want. We don’t get a good one of the two kids together. But we get in the car and we head to school.
The drive is packed and we park in the road. Our sweet little family gathers outside with the hoards waiting, crying, waving as their children line up to be escorted inside.
We follow shortly after and head to the office to drop off the epi-pen as instructed.
9:00 am – The Nightmare
I honestly can’t recall the conversation that occurs, but by the secretary’s third sentence I was shouting.
Let that sink in for a second. She had said a couple of things and I had already lost my cool.
Nothing gets to me like the carelessness with which we treat the health of one another. Nothing. That we would have this stranger making us feel like shitty parents, like this is the most dangerous place in the world to take our child, that this is the wild frontier and that she is destined to die.
This is not a joke. This is exactly how we were made to feel. We must not have attended the events that we did. Here are the millions of different ways things can go wrong. Here’s the paper you certainly got, but must not remember getting that doesn’t go out with the materials and somehow has to magically appear in our possession.
My spouse is in tears in front of this woman and she keeps on going.
9:30 am – The Waking
Now we have no confidence in this school at all. We’re falling apart and feeling at a complete loss. We don’t know what to do.
I go back in and make sure once again that the teacher knows where the epi-pen is. She doesn’t know my daughter is allergic. No paperwork. Nothing. She writes it down. But I’m interrupting the first day of class and it is time for me to leave. Cold comfort.
When I walk out the door, the principal stops me. She explains how used to dealing with alergies they are and how they set up procedures. There is a new nurse and some students have apparently slipped through the cracks. But she assures me that my daughter will be fine.
I sort of believe her.
3:30 pm – The Pickup
When we arrive, I find the class waiting outside. My girl gives me a huge hug and tells me how much fun she had. We head to the car and I give the kids the treat I picked up for them on the way.
This is unacceptable.
The principal responded very quickly. The nurse called and wrote up a care plan over the phone with my spouse. We know the secretary is used to trouble parents or ones that are not familiar with what’s going on. There was a gap in the transition. But this is life and death. My daughter could die because her teacher gives her a granola bar.
The staff kept asking whether or not she has an airborne or ingestion allergy, but allergies, particularly peanut allergies, are dangerous. Contamination is easy because peanut dust can get into anything.
And this is the first day of school.
No parent should feel this way. We are supposed to worry about her making friends or whether or not she likes her teacher. We aren’t supposed to feel like we’ve led our child to the witch’s candy house or a lion’s den wrapped in gazelle meat.
All schools should be peanut free. There are no excuses to put children in danger or make their parents into pariahs. I’ve made the case before. But then it was intellectual. This is real.
Love my daughter. Keep her safe. Teach her things. Get rid of the damn peanuts and all the crap processed with it.