“I need to tell you something about your son,” said James’ teacher, as she put her hands on top of his shoulders.
“He has gotten so responsible. He never needs to be asked to check his blood sugar anymore, and he’s so diligent about recording his number and letting me know.”
I was frankly surprised to hear this, and I must have looked a little startled.
“No really, something magical must have happened since last year,” she followed up, “and I thought you should know it.”
Well, thank you, English teacher. Hearing that really is music to my ears. I looked up at James’ proud face. He was happy to hear the praise from his teacher, and I could tell he knew I was pleased too. It was a happy moment.
Let’s just concentrate on that for a minute. It was a long time coming.
James has almost always needed some assistance with his type 1 diabetes while he was at school. When he first started at the K-8 that he currently attends, the nurse’s aide had to do just about everything. In third grade, James still didn’t want to check his own blood sugar. Now that I’ve met a lot of little kids with diabetes, I know that this is a little bit unusual. At other schools, I’ve even received some not-so-subtle clues that I should pressure James to learn to check himself, but I’ve always resisted this.
I don’t know where it came from, but I got this notion in my head that I wasn’t going to force James to do anything before he was ready. I’m not sure if this is a universal technique for dealing with diabetes or not. I just felt that it was the right thing for James.
James did decide at some point that he wanted to check himself, and from that moment — the moment when he was really ready — he pretty much took over that task from me entirely. It was a similar story for pushing the buttons on the insulin pump himself. And then there was the lunchtime issue. James had gotten into a habit of staying at the nurse’s office to read after going there to check his blood sugar at lunchtime. His well-intentioned teacher really wanted him to rejoin the class for lunch. But I just had a hunch, one I shared with the school nurse, that he didn’t need to be pushed on that one either. Instead, she and I both sat tight until James decided on his own that he wanted to have lunch with his friends every day instead of eating in the nurse’s office.
James seems to be a kid who learns these things in fits and starts. I think it might have been easy to assume all those times I tried to teach him a diabetes task, or get him to progress on a life skill, that he wasn’t making any progress at all. Standing back and looking at the big picture, I’m realizing that he is absolutely learning and progressing, just in his own way.
I feel like we need to acknowledge the vast amount of information and skills that our kids with diabetes need to learn to be able to totally take care of themselves someday, and to see and praise the progress that they’ve already made. Our kids are really incredible that way.
I have a strong belief that James is moving in the right direction. While there is still a lot for him to learn between now and adulthood, if I do my part to teach and talk to him and support him, I believe that he will rise to the challenge. James started out as an adorably helpless infant; now he’s taller than I am and capable of so much. I’m thankful that he is happy and proud. He should be. I hope I can give him both a sense of what he still needs to learn and also the confidence that he needs to keep learning, keep trying, and keep getting better.
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.