Field trips are wonderful. And the school that James attended for both elementary and middle school sure loved to take them. Some were incredibly memorable. James was deeply touched by a visit to a local museum honoring victims of the Holocaust. And he absolutely loved the Gold Rush field trip where the kids delved into California history and panned for gold out in a wild area.
I’ve talked about field trips on this blog before. There are tricky things and there are awesome things about field trips. The tricky thing is that I pretty much always needed to attend with James, and that wasn’t always easy to do. I’m thinking primarily those years when I was also nursing a baby or needed to attend a doctor appointment or even a field trip with another child who desperately wanted mom to attend for him just this once. It was pretty awesome when chaperoning was considered to be a majorly coveted job and the rest of the parents could only participate if they acquired a spot through a lottery — and I had an automatic spot. Through it all, though, I really did feel like I needed to be there for much of James’ school career.
I felt that they needed me when they attended a presidential library with spotty internet reception. If I was there and present, I could handle any event with James without needing to contact somebody else. I felt that they needed me when the field trip incorporated a medieval dinner two hours away and the carb counting was a little tricky. I definitely felt that they needed me when James went to outdoor education school on an island where he engaged in kayaking, snorkeling, and rigorous hiking. I’ll never forget trying to gauge his sugar while he was wearing a full wetsuit and snorkeling mask in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!
But the truth is that by eighth grade, James was pretty capable of going on field trips all by himself. And he did so for most of that year. And then when he went to high school, it honestly didn’t even occur to me to discuss the issue of field trips during his 504 accommodation meeting with his school counselor and the vice principal of student services. I don’t know, I just didn’t see field trips as fitting in to the high school curriculum, and there were so many other things to consider.
So when James brought home a field trip permission slip from high school, I was quite surprised. Turns out it was for a field trip for his Spanish class. He has really enjoyed learning Spanish this past year, and the culmination of the class included a trip to a Mexican supermarket. The form completely threw me. I could fill out the personal information fast enough (heaven knows I have plenty of experience filling out those kinds of forms). It was the bit about accommodations that I couldn’t figure out. I had never talked about it in the 504 meeting. I had to really think about whether James needed me, whether he needed anything. And I had one day to figure it out.
So you know what I did? I punted. I filled out the whole form and omitted a check mark for “needs assistance.” (You’re supposed to check “yes” or “no,” and I didn’t check anything.) James and I decided he could handle his diabetes needs for this trip. And I kind of figured the staff would ask me if they needed further clarification. If they didn’t notice and didn’t ask… I thought he’d be okay. I suppose in a perfect world I’d like to add a provision that the supervising teacher be aware that he might need to drink a juice box if his blood sugar dips too low. And if the field trip included anything really complicated — lots of physical activity, a long way away, inability to remotely monitor blood sugar — I might feel like there’s some need for me to be able to communicate with a grown-up on the trip.
But for what this trip involved, it turns out James was just fine. I guess he’s growing up. I guess he doesn’t need me quite so much anymore. Part of that is a little sad. But most of it just feels amazing.
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.