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One field trip down. Dozens more to go.

The greatest gifts you can give your children are 
the roots of responsibility 
and the wings of independence. 

This past Tuesday, my Aiden went on his first school field trip.... without me. Without his dad. Not even his caregiver or a grandparent. Yep. Just him and his 1st grade classmates. Eeeeeeek!!! Okay. Let me explain a little about Aiden and why this was such a huge event and experience for him and for me. 

Aiden is my 6 year old multiple life threatening food allergic son. I won't recap and describe his full history and multiple anaphylaxis reactions complete with epinephrine, 911 and the trips and stays in the emergency department. Maybe some day I'll share that history with folks in full detail but for now, just know that at 6 he's pretty familiar with the process and how severe his allergies are. He has even learned that sometimes, previously safe foods are now on the bad list. I guess the bright side is that I don't have to worry about him living the Nug Life. Haha! Yeah. Chicken. I sort of miss eating those things some days but that reaction was a bugger so I rarely eat it outside of the house let alone in the house. Maybe some day I will again taste those sweet little nuggets of 'chicken' from McDonald's and ignore the growing guilt of buying and almost devouring a dozen of them in one sitting.... but I digress. 

So yeah. Aiden has had one heck of a rocky start and we never assume that he's safe even when eating foods that he has previously eaten without issue. We've regained a few things and lost others. Such can be the way of the life of the Food Allergy Family. We live well though, and we just try to continue emphasizing his awareness and practice the things that he can control. Simple things that he has been learning and practicing his whole life like keeping his hands to himself when eating, wash his hands before he eats, don't share foods with his friends, keep his food on his FlatBox Lunch box (his is a different color), etc.. Because I've always envisioned a strong, independent young man, these are things that he has been doing for years now. I know he knows these things and would do them. We talked the week before the trip and again the night before. Of my two children, he is the one I trust to be more responsible. My younger daughter, not so much. (Ain't it grand parenting and having to be consistent and yet adjust yourself to each child to an extent because each one is different? Yeah. Fun. Woohoo.) Anyway, I trust him to do all those things.... but he is still not self carrying his epinephrine auto injector. I think this summer is the time to start practicing more regularly with him but for the time being, the family carries them for him and at school, it resides with the teacher and the school nurse. A gentle reminder to the teacher to be sure to take his Auvi-Q with them on the trip combined with my trust in my 6 year old child was all I had to go on. I couldn't take time off work. My husband was out of the country for work. My parents were out of the country on vacation. The caregiver was watching my daughter and younger siblings were not allowed to go on the trip. Aiden really Really REALLY wanted to go on this trip... so we agreed that he would go.

 I seriously was a wreck that day. Thankfully it was a busy day at work and staying busy helps me not panic but I won't lie. I felt nauseated for most of the day. To get through the day, it took focus on work and frequent reminders of "Breathe, Jen. Breathe. Stay calm. Breathe. He's got this. He's having fun." Honestly it was miserable for me... and so worth it. He was fine. No. Not fine. He was giddy  He had SO much fun. More importantly, he even bragged about how he did everything mommy asked him to. He made it a point to share that and I of course had to thank and praise him for being such a responsible young man. As I snuggled with him that night listening to him tell me about his trip, I felt tremendous relief and this feeling of incredible pride. Many happy tears that night after he was sound asleep. He's growing so fast and he's going to be okay. Food allergies or not, my little guy is going to be fine no matter what he chooses to do. I guess the funny thing is that the real question all along was probably whether or not mommy was going to be okay. 

So why am I sharing this story? It's not about telling people how to parent or how they should or shouldn't do things in a similar situation. In fact, quite the opposite. I knew that Aiden was ready for this step in his life. I also mentioned that if it were his younger, wild sister I probably wouldn't have been so trusting in her ability to make the best choices. I guess my biggest message is this: Each and every child is different. As a parent (health issues or not), we have to know our children almost better than they know themselves. When they are younger, it's to care for them, help keep them safe and gauge when it's the best to start challenging them. As they get older, I'm sure it shifts. I see it happening already and I imagine it will become less about preventing things and more about knowing how to be there for them and guide them when things go wrong. That is just parenting in general. Each child is different and each allergic history is different. Just know that they are learning and whether we realize it or not, they are listening to us. When you and your child are ready to start taking those steps toward independence, those small wins are going to feel like huge successes and you'll know that you made the best parenting choices for both of you. 

Love to all,
Jennifer Burch
Owner and Chief Aware Bear
(Mother of one awesome little man named Aiden)


  1. Love your story! It's hard being a food allergy mama, but when we see our kids listening and showing independence it makes life easier. It's a team effort and empowering our kids will make them even more independent. Good luck! Kathy from Allergy Kids Central

    1. Thanks, Kathy! Sometimes I think it really is more difficult for us than them. Especially when we know they are watching us. :-) It's so rewarding to see them become these awesome, self-confident individuals, though. #bearhugs


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