This weekend has been a busy one, perhaps busier than expected for me given that Mike and the kids have been away on their “Dads and kids” camping trip. Instead of taking time to spoil myself in peace whilst they enjoyed the glorious sunshine and camp activities, I sorted, washed, shopped and ticked things off a list, all in preparation for G’s Year 6 camp next week. She’s there for 4 days of adventure: from archery to rock climbing and caving to kayaking, and it’s promising to be an adrenalin-filled time away from home. It will be the first time she’s stayed away for any length of time, apart from during school holidays with my Mum, and I know she’s been feeling a little apprehensive about it all. The strain of not knowing in advance who she’d be sharing a room with took a bit of the shine off her excitement and she was anxious to confirm that she could opt out of the caving, the one activity she has said she doesn’t want to do since we first heard about camp back at the start of the year.
The one part of her week away that has not been of concern for her has been the one that I’ve been able to contribute to: her food. I’ve met with her teacher, Miss K, and the Head throughout the year to discuss the catering arrangements at camp and had an unprecedented 3 meetings the week after half-term as well as multiple e-mail exchanges to ensure the final plans were watertight. Miss K spoke to the camp cook to discuss G’s dietary needs and was reassured that they are well-used to catering for children with food allergies. We had talked about the types of food that would need to be considered for G – GF bread (Genius brown), DF spread (Vitalite Dairy-free) and DF milk (Rice dream) amongst others – and armed with brand names, Miss K has been able to confirm with the camp that these will be available for G.
I am confident that breakfast and lunch will be okay, but it is still the dinner arrangements that are causing me mild moments of suppressed panic. If G was “just” gluten-free, I’d have fewer concerns; if she was “just” dairy-free, I’d be only mildly worried, but the combination of both, whilst so much easier to manage that the multitude of allergies of others in our household, requires a little more forethought. When discussing the menu with Miss K, I realised just how much planning is needed to make G’s meals safe, something that probably seems strikingly obvious to everyone else, but is so second nature to me that I’ve had to learn how to effectively micro-manage these finer details. It’s not as simple as ensuring that GF pasta is cooked for lasagne or GF sausages provided for sausages and mash as she can’t have cheese or white sauce, mashed potato needs to be made with both DF milk and butter and there’s the hidden use of flour to thicken sauces. Those are the little things that sometimes slip under the radar.
So, the school and I have reached a sensible arrangement. I am providing some safe foods for the week for G for those “just in case” moments – cartons of rice milk, safe drinking chocolate, GF breakfast cereal and a loaf of GF bread. There will also be a packet of GF pasta and a GF/DF curry sauce tucked in that will take up little space, but will give me some invaluable peace of mind. I’m also packing a special camp “swap box” as an alternative to the lure of the vending machines that her friends will undoubtedly be pillaging at all times of the day and night. In there will be safe biscuits, snacks and a few bars of our ever-favourite Moo-free chocolate to ensure that she has the opportunity to gorge herself at midnight alongside her room-mates.
Today I handed over that precious bag of food and, tomorrow morning, as M and I wave her off on her adventures, I know that she’ll enjoy a mostly worry-free fantastic week away with her friends and my concerns need only be small.