Kaitlyn came into the room crunching on cereal, trying to get my attention about a homework assignment. Seeing her bowl in hand, I disregarded her homework question and asked, “What’s your number, Kaitlyn?”
It’s the question I ask about 20 times every day, given Kaitlyn’s type 1 diabetes. She did her famous eye roll and flipped open her CGM (continuous glucose monitor) meter attached at her waist and said, “Ugh…” Her face went from eye roll to a nervous-guilty-frustrated expression. I didn’t even have to wait for her to respond. From where I was sitting on the bed, I could see the word H-I-G-H in bright red capital letters mocking us from the top of the screen. Her shoulders slumped. I could see how frustrated she was.
“What happened?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she responded.
“Why did you go so high?” I asked again.
“I don’t know,” she said.
“Did you eat something and not dose?” I tried one more time.
“I don’t think so,” she said.
And then she said, “But Mom, it’s okay. I just bolused for some cereal, and I added BG.”
“You mean you ate cereal when you knew you were that high?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“You know what cereal does to your blood sugar, right?” I asked.
“Um… yeah,” she said.
I was so frustrated. She was so frustrated. I tried my best to have a really patient tone as we talked about the timing of eating “carb-y” things and keeping an eye on her blood sugar number so that when she wants to eat something, she’ll be ready. I apologized for not paying better attention to the fact that her phone was not charged and that I wasn’t getting updates on my phone. I told her that I would do better at reminding her to check and that it was always okay to ask me for help. After a site change and several blood sugar corrections, she finally came back into normal range. It was a long night, but luckily, she didn’t have ketones and she was able to get some sleep.
After experiences like this, I wonder if I’m giving her too much independence. Have I gotten into a bad habit of not checking in as often? I am still very much involved in her diabetes care, but compared to what it was like when she was a newly diagnosed 3-year-old, I’m doing so much less! She’s been doing more and more of it on her own, which is great, but it comes at a cost sometimes.
Our goal has been for her to take on more responsibilities, and she really likes to feel like she can take care of things on her own. But she still has a lot to learn when it comes to making good decisions about when and what to eat, counting carbs, and remembering to check.
It’s a hard balance when it comes to independence. How soon do we let go? Should we let them make mistakes? Kaitlyn is in middle school — is that too soon? I guess I’ve come to the conclusion that although it’ll probably cause us to go through some rough patches — dealing with higher A1C numbers, having bigger blood sugar swings — it’s worth it to let her learn.
As much as I wish I could hold onto my kids forever, I know they have to grow up. Just like learning to brush their teeth, put on their seat belt, and make friendships, at some point they have to do it on their own. How can we expect them to learn if we never allow them to make mistakes? For now, I’m trying to embrace these mistakes, guide Kaitlyn through diabetes self-management safely, and celebrate her growing independence.
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.