I’m not the first (and certainly won’t be the last!) mother to write about how emotional they’re feeling packing their butter-wouldn’t-melt little beauty off to playschool.
But it’s virtually impossible to explain just how big a deal starting playschool is for the Mum of a kid with CF (or any other medical issue). Notice I said it’s a big deal for Mum! The issue is entirely mine. My daughter couldn’t be more ready to take this step – she spent the evening before her first day hugging me and telling me she was soooooo excited. And I’m absolutely thrilled for her. But while the excitement is all hers, the fear is all mine.
You see, as horrible as this might sound, when you have a child with vulnerable health, you see pretty much every thing and every body as a possible source of infection. CF Mums have bionic ears for coughs or sniffles for good reason, having seen their kids suffer the extreme consequences of the most ‘innocent’ of viruses. We also have super-sight for bacteria-friendly environments, knowing that antibiotic-resistant, opportunistic pathogens are ten-thousand-a-penny in this fabulously moist country.
You might read this and think I’m particularly over-anxious or over-thinking it, but the fact is, it’s my duty to make sure my little lady isn’t put in unnecessary danger. She will appear to ‘muck in’ with the rest, but everything she interacts with will have been thought about and talked about with her school. We make modifications in advance, so she doesn’t feel any different to the other kids when she’s there.
I’m sure you’re thinking what the hell kind of danger is there in a playschool of all places? You’d be surprised. With CF, the dangers lurk in the most seemingly innocent of places:
- Towels – the most germ-infested objects in any home or school! Paper towels are a must for people with CF.
- Soap – we need to make sure it’s liquid. No sharing soap bars.
- Poor hand washing facilities – splashing your hands in cold water does not a hand wash make! Warm running water and soap is a must – sing happy birthday to yourself twice while bubbling up!
- Compost – while making compost is seen as environmentally friendly, rotting veg grows B. Cepacia, a potentially lethal bacteria for people with CF.
- Soil – grows pseudomonas aeruginosa. Many people with CF will still do gardening and that’s a totally personal choice. But caretakers need to know to follow strict hand hygiene rules if a child with CF is taking part in any planting activities (and check if their parents will allow them to in the first place).
- Tyres – you see them all the time in playgrounds. Lovely big black tyres – great craic to jump into and over; great places to grow pseudomonas and lots of other baddies in the stagnant water that they collect inside their rims. These ‘playthings’ are actually horrifying ‘germthings’.
- Rainwater buckets – more stagnant water, more problems! These are a no-no for us.
- Other children – another child’s sniffles could be my child’s hospital stay. This one, of course, is not an easy fix as none of us can lock our children up! And children at this age catch viruses like spiders catch flies. But keeping a child with respiratory symptoms separated from my child is a must.
It probably all sounds a bit grim, but I guess like everything else in CF, prevention is protection. We certainly won’t be able to completely stop our wee woman from picking stuff up, but it’s important to limit unnecessary risk.
Of course, Little Miss is blissfully unaware of all the meetings and care plans, all the worried faces as I briefed the playschool team, all my tears and fears behind closed doors. The main thing is: she’s ready. My little magnetic, giggly, social butterfly is ready to get out there and make her mark on the world. I, on the other hand, am not a bit ready. And I never will be. But I’m getting much better at pretending.
Enjoy yourself little lady.
This Mama is doing her best to let you go and not hold you back any more.
Illustration courtesy of the lovely @goldenwonder1