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Friday, December 4, 2009

Ben's going to camp; Am I crazy?

It's true. I am sending my six-year old, highly allergic son off to sleep away camp.

Now before you call in Child & Family Services, I need to clarify that he is going to sleep away camp with his grandfather. It's a "Grandparent & Me" camp.

It's a wonderful opportunity. Ben gets to experience sleep away camp, but I get to send a guardian angel with him. Ben is also blessed to have some one on one time with my dad, and my dad is blessed to get the time to spend with his oldest grandchild.

Although I know my dad will be with him to monitor the whole food allergy thing, I am still a bit of a nervous wreck.

There are a million "What if's" racing through my mind. I am trying to remember what camp is like, so I can anticipate any challenges that might arise, but it has been so long that I have even been associated with a camp, that I am not sure I can do a very good job predicting needs.

I am going to provide all the food for my dad and Ben. That's one thing I can control, and since it's only a three-day, two-night camp, it's a pretty realistic requirement.

Although Ben has multiple-life threatening food allergies, as well as other food allergies, I am pretty sure that the nervousness I am experiencing is a universal experience for ALL parents sending their first child off to camp.

And that though is actually pretty comforting to me.

Going to camp is an important rite of passage, and more importantly, it's a normal rite of passage.

As parents of food allergic children, we are always seeking how to balance safety with normalcy. It's a tough line to find. But it's important that we continue to challenge ourselves to let our children go and enable them to experience the "normalicies" of childhood.

So as parents of food allergic children, we must figure out how to navigate school, play dates, dining out, birthday parties, sleep-overs, summer day camps and yes, even sleep away camp.

You can prepare, prepare, prepare. But at some point, you also have to have a little faith.

You have to believe in other adult's abilities to listen and learn. You ahve to believe in yourself that you can let go. You have to believe in your child's ability to advocate for himself. But most of all you have to believe that the food allergies are not in charge of your child's life!

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