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!