Kim M.

How Hard Should We Push Independence?

Recently we went on what should have been a fun little family outing but turned into a heart-wrenching experience. There’s a seven-mile bike trail near our house that leads down to the beach. Getting to the beach takes more than a 30-minute drive depending on traffic, but this bike trail cuts right through the mountain on a canyon road. It’s a great trail to walk or ride, and we’ve been doing it as a family since I was a little girl. I always considered it a family-friendly activity, but we soon found out that it’s not for everyone.

My sweet Kaitlyn has always been a timid bike rider. She rides around our cul-de-sac just fine and loves going on the flat bike trails around Yosemite Valley, but until recently she hadn’t yet done anything truly challenging. Well, this trail was a challenge for her from the very start. She didn’t want to go on the ride even before we began, but I pushed her to do it. I gave her a pep talk and told her everything was going to be fine. She was so nervous and resisted going until the last minute, but we put her helmet on and said, “Let’s go!”

Kaitlyn was by far the slowest one of the group, so my dad and I stayed behind with her. When we were only about a mile down the hill it became very steep, and Kaitlyn was having a hard time keeping a safe speed. She got scared as she began going faster than she wanted to. She panicked, lost control, and fell face-first into the asphalt. I had never been so scared in all my life.

There was blood everywhere. Her mouth was bleeding, her arms and legs were road-rashed, and I couldn’t tell if her teeth were still in place. I did the only thing I could think of: I dropped the bikes, picked her up, and told my dad to call for help. Through some luck, prayers, and adrenaline, we got her back up to safety and to the urgent care clinic, where she was stitched up and bandaged.

As I walked up the steep hill with Kaitlyn in my arms, I kept telling her how sorry I was that I had pushed her to come on the ride. I was pleading for forgiveness and promising that I would never make her do the ride ever again until she was ready. The guilt that I felt was incredible. Even though I knew that it was just an accident and that it could have happened to anyone, I felt like it was completely my fault. She wasn’t ready, and I pushed her to do it anyway.

All my years as a parent, I believed that it was my job to push my kids to try hard things and to be adventurous and brave. I thought that it was best to teach them to work hard, play hard, and try things that they think are too difficult for them to do. I believed that it was more important to push them sometimes than to trust their decisions. Now I’ve realized that there’s a fine line. I still believe that there are times when we need to encourage and push a little, but I’m also more aware now that there’s a time to stop — a time to let them make their own decisions and judge for themselves how capable they are and how important something is to them.

When it comes to type 1 diabetes, we need to consider when it’s the right time to push independence. When is it okay to expect kids to hit certain self-care milestones? When is it better to trust their decisions? When should I expect my older children to be caretakers?

Luckily, Kaitlyn is one of the most forgiving people I know, and she doesn’t hold any resentment about her accident. She’s all better now, and thanks to some great doctors and dermatologists, the scar above her lip is barely noticeable. Her wounds have healed, but the lessons learned will not be forgotten.

 

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.

 

Related topics:
A Year-by-Year Guide to Type 1 Self-Care
People in the Know: Gaining Independence
In the Spotlight: Sports and Type 1 Diabetes

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