It works like this: When I get an alert that James’ blood sugar might be low at night (or I just get a mommy gut feeling), I bring a juice box to him. After testing his blood sugar, I put the straw in the juice box and stick it in his mouth so he doesn’t have to get out of bed. He drinks the whole thing in seconds, and I walk away while he finishes it. We’ve been doing this forever.
Sometimes, for whatever reason, we don’t have too many nighttime lows. Maybe it’s because his blood sugar is balanced at night or maybe he’s having a spell when he needs more insulin instead of juice. But now and then we’ll have a tough week for lows. Like when he’s been sick or unusually active.
We had just finished a week like that last Saturday morning when I popped into James’ room while he was outside playing. His room was spotless. We’ve been working so hard on encouraging him to be responsible, and I was proud of the efforts he was making. But I could see something sticking out from underneath the bed. When I bent down to check it out, I found not one, two, or three used juice boxes under there, but seven. Seven somewhat sticky, junky-looking boxes just hiding under the bed.
I was immediately tempted to turn into Responsibility Mom and get after him about cleaning up his mess. Part of my job is, after all, to teach James to clean up after himself and to be capable of leading a good, adult life.
But I resisted this time.
When I looked at him out the window, he was playing a game outside with his brothers. He was smiling and laughing. His face was full of color, and he looked strong and capable. He was being patient with the 5-year-old and letting the 9-year-old win. And I just didn’t want to go get him. Just this once, I wanted to be the Clean-up Fairy despite my strong desire most of the time to teach him and his siblings to be self-reliant and tidy. This time I just wanted him to be that kid I could see outside the window, the happy, smiling kid that doesn’t have to come and clean up juice boxes underneath his bed. Yes, he’ll have to be in charge of that himself someday. But just for today, I wanted to sneak in and take care of a reality of diabetes that is a little hard sometimes.
With great love and tender feelings in my heart, I pulled every one of those juice boxes out from under the bed (some of them were really stuck under there!) and looked at this collection. And I realized that juice boxes for me are love. They’re given with love, they’re cleaned up with love. They’re not just a lifeline for James’ health; they’re a lifeline for my heart too.
On the subject of how much diabetes responsibility we should take off our children’s backs, much has been written and there are many opinions. I don’t know that I have a definitive position. I want James to grow up very capable of leading a great life, and I know that I need to let him do and learn so that he can eventually get there. But this day, I just wanted him to get to be a kid.
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.