The other day, my daughter Kaitlyn told me a story that just about broke my heart.
It was something that happened to her at school years ago when she was a little girl. One day, the class was having a little celebration and every child was allowed to have one cupcake. Because Kaitlyn has type 1 diabetes, typically when there was going to be food in class they would try to let me know ahead of time, so I could come in to check Kaitlyn’s blood sugar and dose for her food. On this day, however, I wasn’t there.
I’m not sure if it was an unplanned party, or if they forgot to tell me, or if maybe I just couldn’t be there. Whatever the case, I wasn’t there to dose for the cupcake, and so Kaitlyn had to sit there staring at it on her desk while all the other kids ate. Her teacher had given it to her and asked her to not touch it until she could take it to the nurse’s office, where they could help Kaitlyn dose for it. So, she waited, and waited, and waited. The cupcake was right in front of her, and all her classmates were eating theirs. She was hungry, and it looked and smelled delicious. After several years of carb counting and blood sugar checks around every meal, she had gotten pretty good at practicing self-restraint. But she was still a little girl. And the cupcake was taunting her!
She couldn’t resist any longer, so she dipped her finger into the frosting, just a tiny bit, and licked her finger. It was just one lick, and then it became another, and another. Her little licks became nibbles, and before she knew it, she had eaten about half of the cupcake. Just then, her teacher walked by her desk and said, “Kaitlyn! I thought I could trust you! You weren’t supposed to eat that cupcake!” Kaitlyn was mortified. She had been yelled at in front of the whole class, and she felt guilty for eating when she knew she wasn’t supposed to.
I never heard about this story until now, but this experience has stayed with Kaitlyn all these years. I’m not sure exactly what happened later that day — her numbers were probably high for a while, and she probably needed a correction a few times. Whatever her blood sugar was, I’m sure it was easily fixed within a few hours. But the shame and embarrassment that Kaitlyn felt that day took not just hours to fix, or even days. Years have gone by, and that one event has left scars that have not completely healed.
Why do I share this story with you? It’s a reminder that no mistake or blood sugar number is worth shaming our kids about. Perhaps we can help our teachers and ourselves remember that although we want to avoid as many mistakes as we can, diabetes care — and kids with diabetes — are not going to be perfect. And that’s okay! Our kids should feel safe and loved at home and at school regardless of their blood sugar numbers. Or whether or not they licked a cupcake without asking.
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.