There are times when parenting is hard. Surprisingly, it is not the times where I am disciplining, directing or even disapproving (imagine all sort of situations where any of those might apply and I have probably had to deal with it from toddlerhood to teens).
Hard times within parenting seem to come when I am the least prepared of what to say or how to react to what I am hearing. Getting to the truth - in my child and even in myself - is at times, the hardest of all.
"Yes, your goldfish has died. I'm so sorry. Swimmy lived a good life. No, he can't wake up or swim or be alive."
That situation actually happened. And it happened about five times over as we became 'that goldfish murdering family' that somehow, despite about $200 in gear, replaced twenty-five cent fish on a weekly basis. Our hopes of having at least one survivor and even better, a happier ending to our week were dashed again and again. Sadly, we had to explain the truth of the Swimmy situation to the sweet little faces that stared hopefully into the bowl.
And wow, was it hard. There were tears and I know we needed some time to sort through it. Even with fish, there is a natural process of grief and overcoming loss. To this day, our youngest, the most affected, talks lovingly about her Swimmy x5.
A few weeks ago, our daughter wore a pair of new shoes to school. Much walking around the large campus ensued and by the end of the day, an angry blister appeared. As she is a teen, the thought to share what had happened to mom, didn't occur for a second. Despite the discomfort of wearing the shoes, a second day of walking prevailed in the name of fashion.
I'm underlining this for myself as she is a teenager and I am sure I did the same thing. Raising daughters has reminded me time and time again of what I did to my mother. If you haven't called or begged forgiveness from your mom, this is your reminder too!
By the third day, the sore looked angry and felt feverish as a slight infection had started to work into the cut. Not properly cleaned or bandaged, while playing her golf, a bit of dirt and debris had managed to infect the heel. In addition, a second and third area near the toe had started to blister. Later, we found out that socks were not worn as it would have ruined the look.
Again, go call your mother. You are sorry. I don't even know what for. But I am sure we all did the same thing.
Tempted as I was to just release the shoes into the glorious secret parenting holding area called the garbage can, I decided to have a truthful conversation about the need to be careful with sores and especially sores on the feet. The first go was full of gentle reminders of how to clean a wound, how to avoid complicating the sores by taking a break from the shoes and ultimately the ability to understand that some shoes are just cheaply made and may not ever fit well.
While rolling her eyes and shaking her head', she wanted me to know that I was over-reacting. More than anything, she wanted me to know that she had it all under control and that she was already aware of the situation and had planned a way to manage it so she could still wear the shoes. When pressed, there was no plan and no attempt to do anymore than to keep wearing the shoes because they went with everything. Plus, she had gotten compliments - which in highschool is the equivalent to a raise.
Here's the thing, I could have gotten mad, lost the message and focused on her attitude but I knew that it was probably time to come come clean and share the reality of T1D complications like diabetic neuropathy.
When she calmed down, we went to the computer together and looked up preventative foot care for diabetics and spent some time discussing how a situation like a simple cut on a toe can spiral out of control into a long term issue with devastating consequences.
She explained that while she knew some of that from things that I had said, she didn't really believe me until we read it together. Just like when we were preparing for Paris and I insisted on wearing our valuables in a protective cross-body bag, only when she witnessed pick-pocketing near a train station, did she believe that it could (and did) happen.
This is how a teen really thinks. If anyone ever wanted the answer to how to get them to listen and respond, you must first acknowledge the truth.
It wasn't the conversation that I wanted to have. I think one of my protective measures with parenting T1D is to avoid scary issues around all of the 'what-ifs' and 'could happens'. However, the reality is that I have a teen that is now at the age where her care is shifting more into her own hands and less into mine. It took three full days for me to understand the effect of the shoes and if it hadn't hurt to the point of limping, I might not have been aware until even later.
Teaching is the acknowledgement of not just what we hope for, but what we know to be truth. Even if it is hard.
Monday, September 19, 2016
The days have been flying by. Our oldest is in her sophomore year of high school and our sweet ‘baby’ is enjoying her last year of middle school as an 8th grader. With the usual flurry of activity to launch both of them into the new school year, we have had review meetings for 504s, Safe at School and Squirrel Safety. Yes, I did make that one last one up, but it surely feels like squirrel safety in the sense that we spend approximately one full day on planning routes to safe areas within the school for extra glucose, creating low glucose boxes equipped with enough sugary foods to satisfy an entire village and hiding them so that the said village, does not eat everything should they come across it.
It’s an emotionally draining endeavor. I’m not sure how to describe thinking about the worst possible situation, having a reenactment and then, moving along to something light-hearted like a discussion of the Americans with Disabilities law for accommodations.
And yet, all of us with children that live with T1D do this every year.
The irony is not lost on my girlfriends. They understand that while they giggle at marketing messages which showcase parents happily pushing grocery carts of school supplies, I start to wince.
The reminder isn’t joyful that school is about to begin, but more along the dreaded thought process of:
Did I get my Diabetes Medical Management Plan signed?
Will the school meet to review our 504 plan before my girls start?
How will my child wait until the afternoon to eat when breakfast was 8 hours earlier?
Who will share this information with the bus driver?
What is a three-day field trip? Are you kidding me?! Overnight with T1D!!!
The list of worries is long and deep. Ten years later and I still lose sleep over the anxiety of sending both of my girls every year. I know that should there be something that they need, there is a reality that despite our efforts in training staff, they may need to handle it completely on their own.
This isn’t just a case of Mama Birdy feeling unable to let baby fly either. Within our school system, though fully trained, we have approximately 50ish teachers and staff that are faced with hundreds of children that all may or may not need something RIGHT NOW.
In balancing the need for my teens to blend (which they need to do) along with the necessity to be remembered (never sure until there is an emergency) is the reality that none of our plans are foolproof as T1D is this disease that tends to be elusive, never.doing.the.same.thing.twice kind of rule-breaker.
If I am not sure what is to happen, how can I expect our teachers and staff to be fully prepared?
The only way that we have managed thus far is to ensure that the girls take the lead in their own care and that we create a safety net to support them. Tools like the Dexcom G5 and a cell phone have helped so much.
Still, the anxiety is palpable. It’s not just my own either. The girls feel shades of worry from their own previous experiences.
School isn’t home and so teachers and staff need to be taught to understand the need for classroom eating, bathroom breaks and even those cell phone beeps that alert to lows.
Teachers and staff need to be able to share that information with their aides and substitutes because once they are gone and a stranger takes over, the classroom often becomes a wild west hang-out, and the substitute is left to the only defense that they have - suspension write-ups for violations like those cell phone beeps. Even worse, often bathroom breaks and eating are denied.
Yet all of this can be worked through and solved.
We can share, teach and work through any issue with communication and grace. Our girls are learning to speak up, to advocate and to be responsible. The skills that they learn will take them through the course of their lives; to the unforgiving professor in college, to the misinformed colleague or manager at work and through every social situation imaginable.
While starting school is never easy (for any one of us), we choose to focus on the outcome. It’s one more learning opportunity before they start their next chapter.
One thing that I am sure is safe to assume:
We are going to need a nuttier squirrel safety plan.
Yes, I know that's bad but I couldn't help myself. Happy Back-to-school!
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
A few years ago, the girls participated in a Teddy Bear Clinic sponsored by JDRF in Toledo, Ohio. If you haven't been to one, it is worth a special place on the family calendar.
For little children (and even big kids like me!), special Patient/Caregiver stations are set up by local area non-profits, medical staff and volunteers in an effort to demystify the patient care that goes on within doctors' offices, clinics, even hospitals.
Tomorrow, August 18th, as we go full circle, our two daughters will actually be running their own station at the Teddy Bear Clinic. If you happen to be near Ann Arbor, Michigan and would like to visit the Hands-On Museum, look for the Naturally Sweet Sisters and their special Rufus bears.
Click HERE for more information on the Hands-On Museum Teddy Bear Clinic.
They promise to make sure your little ones' stuffed animals receive a clean bill of health and hope to give back a little bit of that same 'patient confidence' magic that they too, once received.