If you couldn’t tell by everyone’s Facebook pages in the past week, school has started for many kids around the country. It seems that posting the first day of school picture has become an obligatory step in being a part of the social media world. And I won’t lie. I do it with my kids and I think that they are fun to look at. From afar, you get to watch your friend’s kids grow up year after year. You find yourself nodding your head as you look at the pictures and you recognize that the smiles on the parents’ faces are a little wider than that of the kids on that first day. But behind that large smile for the cameras, the parents (if they are like me) are wondering where the time is going and saying to themselves, “I can’t believe I have a (fill the blank) grader”. It’s a bitter-sweet day.
We treat the first day of school in our house as a big day. The kids recognize that, much like my full time position and my wife’s employment, school is their “job”. We tell them that we expect them to take school seriously and that they need to put forth their best effort on a daily basis. In order to achieve this, they know that they need to be rested, well-nourished and prepared. So, last week, before the first day of school, we took our kids to one of their favorite restaurants for an “end of summer” dinner. It was our way of celebrating the start of another year and letting them know how proud of them we are. We were going to nourish them and then they would get a good night’s rest before their “big” day.
We went to dinner at our local wing place, a restaurant where we know the servers and have spoken with management about Cam’s dietary needs. He had been there multiple times this summer and never with any negative consequences. It is a restaurant that we consider a “safe” place. Cam got his typical order, traditional wings that do not have breading and are prepared in their own separate fryer. He was six or seven wings into his meal when he suddenly stopped and said “Uh oh”. I looked across the table at him and there was a genuine look of worry on this face. We asked him what was wrong and he reached into his mouth and pulled out what looked to be a crumb. “I think I just ate a piece of breading”, he said, looking at the crumb he held in his fingers. When I asked him if we was sure that it was a breading, he said, “It tasted different than the rest and it had more flavor, like I haven’t had in a while”. It was my turn to say “uh, oh”.
I never want to show panic when I think that Cam has been cross-contaminated. I feel that I need to be the confident figure, someone who he can look at and know that “if Dad thinks it’s ok, I’m going to be ok”. I put up the same front that evening, letting him know that we weren’t sure what it was that he ate but if he pulled most of it out of his mouth, he was going to be just fine. Inside my head, I wasn’t so sure and my own inner-confidence was showing some cracks. Not now, I thought. If he starts having a “bout” in four hours, which is similar to what has happened to him with prior cross-contamination issues, it will start at almost midnight. When finished, his body would be wiped out from both physical and mental exhaustion. That’s no way to go into your first day at a new “job”. Thinking about that first day with new teachers and new schedules can already be stressful enough. I didn’t want him to feel even more pressure in the last few hours of his summer break in thinking of whether or not he would be getting sick later. Not now. So, with a nod of my head, I let him know it would be ok and not something that he needed to worry about. Did he believe me? Maybe. Did the anticipation of possible stomach issues stay in his head until he went to sleep? Probably. But did we let it consume the rest of our evening. No. And that’s a mind-set that we have adopted as a family. We will not let this disease consume any of us in what we do. We have and we will continue to adapt. It’s how we “win”.
It turned out that Cam did not have any issues that evening. He had a good night’s rest, woke up replenished and smiled for the obligatory picture. My smile was bigger than his in our picture, but not for the reasons that usually are associated with a first day. I felt relief. Our “no panic” response to what happened the night before paid off this time. We succeeded by not allowing the situation to dictate our actions. It’s something that I want to make sure never happens; not now, not ever.