I’ve had the privilege recently of watching something amazing happen with James. As I’ve expressed before, James was a little slow to take over some of the responsibilities for taking care of his type 1 diabetes. He didn’t have any interest in testing himself until he was nearly 9 years old. It wasn’t until he was almost 10 that he took any interest in operating his insulin pump or learning to count carbs. From my experience in the diabetes world, many kids take an interest quite a bit earlier. Part of it was that he just wasn’t interested, and part of it was that I refused to push him towards independence. But all of that is behind us now, and I’m watching a whole new phase unfold as James learns to manage his own diabetes.
It was a typical afternoon for us, although James’ blood sugar was somewhat higher than usual. I was talking to him about it. He tested himself and told me the number, and I told him to go ahead and give himself an insulin correction through his pump. What really impressed me was that he interrupted me and said, “Mom, I could do that, but look at my CGM” (his continuous glucose monitor). “It says my blood sugar is going down rapidly. Why don’t we just wait and see what happens in the next half hour?”
This was an interesting interaction for a couple of reasons. First, it demonstrates how two people might reasonably have different ideas on how to treat even the most mundane diabetes situations. In truth, I think that is why diabetes is hard sometimes. Every single part of the process takes higher-level thinking and can be subjective! Second, it showed a lot of understanding about how diabetes works from a formerly disinterested 10-year-old kid. But most importantly, it showed a complex interest and involvement on the part of JAMES. He not only understands HOW to operate the testing kit and the insulin pump; he understands WHY he does what he does and has the confidence to trust his body and his equipment and offer up an alternative solution!
This is exactly what I wanted from James. I WANT him to care about what is going on in his body. I WANT him to have an opinion and to learn how to follow his hunches and mostly to feel like he is moderately in control of what is going on. I’m pleased that he is interested and feels like he can talk to the adults in his life about his treatment. I’m grateful that he has enough confidence to not only understand the process, but offer further insight into what he sees and predicts.
Much of that I cannot take credit for! Some of this was just a matter of waiting for James to come into his own managing his diabetes. But I do think there are a few things that I’ve done to nurture that kind of understanding, concern, and confidence.
I think it’s key that I let him wait to feel ready to take on diabetes management tasks. When he wanted to, he was ready to learn how to test, how to count carbs, and how to enter values into his insulin pump. I’ve also made a point to always trust him. When he tells me that he feels low but the meter doesn’t match, I’ve always just trusted his feelings; and I think as a result, he’s learned not to discount them. I try to discuss what I’m doing with his blood sugar out loud with him. As I mentally work through the process, I let him hear it too. It gives him a mini lesson each and every time to hear what kinds of things I consider while treating him.
Would you like to know what happened to James’ blood sugar on this occasion? It turns out that James was right. His blood sugar WAS on the way down; and within an hour and a half, he was comfortably in range, without having administered any extra insulin. I’m glad I listened to him. He’s starting to really know what he’s talking about!
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.