If it gets worse, do we call you? they asked. I shrugged. Depends on what "worse" looks like. There was a pause, while they thought this over. A quiet shudder. And, with a sympathetic smile, I left.
And cheered all the way to the preschool, quivering still with adrenaline, and preparing to babble apologies for being a full. 40. minutes. late. (omg, omg, I'm late. I've got the kid who can't be in the classroom when the others eat lunch and boy are they eating lunch now and I'm late and I got called on the carpet for being repeatedly oh, 7-8 minutes late because he just doesn't listen when he's tired and he wanders over to his friends with the wheat and the egg lunches and omg omg I know they said they understood that I had to take care of the Eldest but damn this is LATE.)
I drove up. Parked. Ran, and your son invented a new word today, the director told me, smiling. Relaxed. She was sitting on the empty playground with the Toddles, a demolished plate of apple slices, and one, lonely section of grapefruit. The Toddles, his face deep in a corn thin-sunbutter sandwich, didn't look up.
He did? I tried to sit, rather than crumple onto the bench.
Yes. Unpithing. She held up the grapefruit. The white stuff on the grapefruit is called pith, yes? I nodded. She grinned. So, he explained that he was un-pithing his slices of grapefruit.
You did? I asked the kid. He nodded, still chewing.
The adrenaline faded from my veins, and a slow peace crept in. I had an urge to look down, to check my footing. My kid was safe, being fed allergy-friendly food as if it was no big deal that a staff person has to be dedicated just to him (a big freakin' deal that affected all of the other teachers, shuffling the kids around to keep the ratios legal) and we're now talking about how funny he is with language. Um. So, is everything okay? asked the director. I nodded. And what about you, she pursued, are you okay? I nodded again.
I'm going to smack the person who pops this bubble, I thought. Because this has got to be some sort of a fantasy world, in which my children go to schools that understood them, adapted to them, and maybe even kinda liked them. Us. Especially on days when the cost is spelled out: he could have a reaction. You could actually have to use the needle-thing that I showed you. That mom could disappear because she has another kid with medical needs. You could be stuck with the anaphylactic wheat kid until she resurfaces. So, shall we talk about re-enrolling next year?
I'm fine, I told her. Actually, more than fine. Because today, I left my son at school while he was in the middle of an allergic reaction. A mildish one, and unlikely to proceed, but still - he wanted me gone, maybe needed me gone, and I went. And I could do that, knowing that he'd be safe, even if something happened. I met her eyes, and saw that she was as moved as I. And while that was happening, I was able to focus on him, knowing that the Toddles was fine - the teams that we have in place at these two schools... I trailed off, shook my head. It's extraordinary.
She shook her head, thinking. Yes, she said. It is.