My son has school camp next week and I am terrified. This is the first time I am letting him attend a school camp. He’s only gone on one excursion with the school. I’ve been too scared to send him before because of his severe food allergies.
How am I meant to raise a strong, happy, confident child when just one bite of the wrong food can kill him? How am I meant to protect him from a healthy distance so he can develop his own survival skills?
I feel as though every choice I make to try and protect him from his food allergies directly opposes the way I know I should be parenting, but I also feel I have very little choice.
Philip is 10 and yes, he is aware of his allergies and he even has a rough idea of what he can and cannot eat. Being allergic to egg and nuts is complicated. Everyone has heard of nut allergies but egg allergies are more complicated. It’s in almost everything, particularly foods kids enjoy eating, and although he is starting to slowly grow out of it, it’s still deadly to him in large doses.
So I continue to try and protect and educate him in a way that allows him to have some independence from me and remain alive so he can enjoy his new-found independence.
At first I said he couldn’t attend camp and he was distraught. He’d already missed band camp and the excursion during which they cooked and ate fried rice, an allergy mum’s total nightmare. He was sick of missing out. My husband and I made the difficult decision to let him go and since then, I haven’t slept a full night.
I met with the school and they assured me the venue was experienced in child allergies. I contacted the venue and they assured me Philip’s meals would be prepared separately by a qualified chef.
No, I’m still not comfortable. What keeps popping into my head is the numerous incidents of children who have died at school camps after parents have been assured everything would be okay. The bottom line is that people make mistakes. I’ve made mistakes with Philip and accidentally fed him egg and nuts, but luckily I recognise the symptoms of his allergies which are different every time. How will they know he needs to be treated way before he becomes visibly ill?
So I’ve decided to pack all of his food myself.
The only thing is that he may feel left out of all the food fun at camp, but we have spoken about it and he is happy to do this as long as he still gets to go. Maybe next time we’ll do it differently, but this time, it’s the only way I can let him go.
We sat down and wrote down a two-day menu plan of foods he will be happy to eat and my job this weekend is to prepare it all, write out a menu, email the menu to the school and the venue, and then have a face-to-face conversation with every member of staff attending the camp, making sure they are all aware of his food allergies and my instruction that he is only to eat the foods I have packed.
Philip know he must only eat the foods I have packed and if he does well, then he can go to band camp later in the year.
It’s okay to let kids know you are scared in situations like this, isn’t it? I think so, as long as we discuss our fears and a solution that addresses them. That’s empowerment. That’s educating him to manage his food allergies himself for the rest of his life.
I felt the need to vent and rang my best friend. We had one of those conversations where we lamented the existence of food allergies and expressed frustration at the fact they exist, they are getting worse and that doctors don’t seem to know how they occur or how to treat them.
It’s a work-in-progress, a very slow one and one I hope we manage to solve in my son’s lifetime.
How have children’s food allergies affected you? Do you have to cater to children with food allergies at your children’s food allergies?