Last summer James sat in the endocrinologist’s exam room with dripping wet hair. We had just come from some swimming instruction, and by way of explanation I told that to the doctor. Without looking up, her immediate response was, “Wow. Great. Keep him in that. That’s exactly what he needs.” And that was that. We had a great visit, but it was a fast one, and I never really followed up on that conversation since there are so many things we have to talk about in such a short time.

Still, somehow that quick affirmation about the benefits of swimming has stuck with me. I don’t know if all parents agonize over their children’s activities, but I feel that with four kids I have to be really purposeful in what we spend our time doing. Our fall schedule was already settled by the time we had our late summer visit with the endocrinologist, and unfortunately swimming didn’t fit the calendar at all. I couldn’t feel awesome about just ignoring her counsel though!

James has had his own little journey finding ways to stay physically active and engaged. He’s dabbled with basketball, which is a great sport for a potentially very tall boy. We have a hoop in our front yard, and I rather hope he continues to spend time out there honing his skills. He’s done a little bit of martial arts, and that was my favorite thing. I loved watching him out there and listening to his instructor teach him not only physical coordination and strength but respect and patience as well. James’ favorite physical activities generally involve the great outdoors —hiking, biking, backpacking, mountain climbing, and fishing. Oh, that these could be daily activities!

But right now James doesn’t have a regular exercise outlet, and I think the endocrinologist was indicating that it was time to look for one. Still, swimming made me hesitate a little bit. Why?


They sound terribly impractical for my family. When James is in the water, it’s one of the few times I feel like I’m not on the pulse of what his blood sugar is doing. None of his tech works in the water. Instead if I want to know for sure what his blood sugar is doing, I have to actually dry his finger and check it. Otherwise I rely on watching how he acts and what his face looks like, which is actually pretty effective when I’m able to devote enough energy to watching him.

So I sit here and ponder if I can reasonably commit to bringing my younger kids with me to several practices per week and concentrating enough to make sure James is safe and comfortable. And then I have to ask: Do I even want to expend that much effort?

I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I could and would, if that’s what James really wanted. What gets tricky is that while he likes swimming, he’s not even sure if that’s what he wants to do. I have always followed my children’s lead when it comes to how they spend their time. Still, physical activity is so incredibly important that I’ve considered insisting that each of my children do some kind of sport — of their own choosing, of course.

But James hasn’t chosen yet. So the question becomes: Do I push him to swim regularly —something highly recommended by his doctor — even if he doesn’t want to AND it’s tremendously difficult for our family to add to the schedule? I don’t know yet. Part of me hopes that he finds fulfillment in regular martial arts practice. Again, I LOVED what that did for him… and the studio is RIGHT by our house!

I struggle with ruling swimming in or out because of diabetes. I don’t want to give diabetes that much power. I want James to have every chance at success and happiness. And so I’ll wait to see if swimming is going to be his thing. Is it bad that I’m crossing my fingers for a particular outcome?

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:
In the Spotlight: Sports and Type 1 Diabetes
People in the Know: Sports and Blood Sugar
People in the Know: Out-of-Range at Tryouts

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