If you haven’t noticed from my writing, I tend to be a pretty neurotic mom. I think some of that might be related to the fact that my oldest boy has type 1 diabetes. But I can only blame diabetes for a small part of my overprotectiveness. What can I say? Some of it is genetic: I’m the daughter of a woman who was a helicopter parent before it was fashionable. And some of it is peer pressure: I must have the most overprotective spouse in existence. Actually, compared to the two of them (my mother and husband), I’m practically a free-range parent.
But really, I do think that I’m more worried about certain things than many of the parents around me. A good example of this is how I feel about sleepovers. I actually attended my fair share of sleepovers as a kid. And they were fun! Everything from packing your suitcase and grabbing your sleeping bag, to (not) sleeping on the living room floor, to having breakfast together with your school friends. It was a special and cherished childhood experience.
Which is why I’m so torn about sleepovers for James. I want to be clear about something: The issue isn’t really entirely about diabetes. As James has gotten older and as I’ve learned to trust more, there are now quite a few adults that I trust to care for his diabetes. Yes, I’d even trust them overnight.
It’s a funny thing, figuring out who has gained your trust. The “perfect” trustworthy adult for me is someone who has a very responsible personality. They have to “get” that things like blood sugar testing MUST be done before eating every single time and that every time James eats he MUST have insulin. Some parents are so laid-back that they don’t get the importance of this issue! On the other hand, some parents are so aware of this that they’re too stressed out to take care of James well. They worry that any blood sugar number that is even a speck less than ideal is the result of something they did wrong, and they cannot relax for a minute when James is with them. This last group can be educated, however, and we’ve had some totally awesome experiences with James and his friends’ moms.
With any of these adults that I trust, I’m totally sure they could handle the blood sugar issues of watching James overnight. Yes, the circumstances of sleepovers — everything from increased excitement to unusual or difficult-to-dose-for foods (pizza!) — can add up to unpredictable numbers. But once an adult understands the ins and outs of diabetes, I think they can swing an overnight, truly.
Despite that, I’ve been hesitant to say yes to certain sleepovers for other reasons. While sleepovers were innocent enough when I was a kid, it just seems like the world has gotten a lot more complicated. We watched VHS tapes that parents plopped into a VCR. Kids today can use their cell phones to pull up any content that they want, and things like that worry me. So for our kids, we’re easing into sleepovers by starting with family. Cousin sleepovers at Aunt Kim’s house are totally A-OK by me, and thankfully this scratches James’ sleepover itch … for now. I’m glad he gets to enjoy one of the simple pleasures I loved from my childhood AND that he is doing it in an environment that feels safe and secure to me.
Editor’s note: Ready for a sleepover? Ask your diabetes healthcare provider for a free copy of Coco’s First Sleepover, the new book published by Disney and Lilly Diabetes, and use the discussion guide at the end to talk with your child about what to expect before the big night.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.