“I’m going to run away.” I think most parents have heard these words before. But honestly, this was a first coming from James’ lips. In his case, it was funny, because he wasn’t running away in anger. I think he just suddenly decided it would be fun to be on his own and having an adventure. And he wasn’t serious. He wasn’t really planning on going anywhere. Rather, I think he was having a daydream that it would be fun to be independent. It would be like taking part in the myriad adventure novels that he’s reading these days.
It did spawn a rather interesting conversation, however. One that gave me a window into the way that he views his little 10-year-old life, and one that was surprising and caused reflection.
Recognizing that his statement was merely musing and daydreamy, I asked him the usual questions: “Where will you go?” and “How long will you be gone?” Knowing full well the question I wanted to ask was, “How will you take care of your diabetes?” But I didn’t really ask that one directly. Instead I asked the more casual question, “What will you bring with you?” And his answer really was enlightening.
James mentioned that he would bring a jacket, a flashlight, his backpack, some food and snacks, water, and his favorite stuffed animal. I think he even mentioned a pocketknife and something to protect himself with. Not a bad list by any means, and it would be sufficient for an expedition of a few hours for most people. But not for a child with type 1 diabetes.
Making sure he understood exactly what I was asking, I repeated the question: “Do you need anything else when you run away?” He didn’t think he did. Notice that he didn’t mention insulin or syringes or testing kits or continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems. He mentioned snacks, but he didn’t specifically name juice boxes or supplies for lows.
What does this mean exactly? Well, it means that in his daydreams and in his musings, he’s a child, and not necessarily one that thinks about diabetes day in and day out. I’ve thought a lot about what that implies, and I don’t think it’s totally conclusive. Our daydreams are often impractical and built on circumstances that aren’t realistic. Winning the lottery. Taking a trip around the world. Lots of these revolve around letting go of the challenges and everyday stresses that we usually deal with. Still, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit happy in a way. I guess I’m sort of happy that he didn’t mention diabetes at all in the context of his daydream.
Diabetes responsibilities did not figure into his fantasy -- he didn’t mention rational things like needing to bring juice boxes, testing kits, a cell phone to call Mom, insulin, etc. He didn’t do that. But he also didn’t expressly reject his diabetes care. He didn’t mention, “Hmm, when I run away, I’ll bring a flashlight, but not my CGM -- it would be nice not to have to bring that.” I think the conclusion I ultimately came to is that James is less obsessed with the toll of diabetes from day to day -- able to disassociate himself from it in his dreams and musings -- than his mother, who deals with the realities.
A part of me is really happy that, in his mind, he can be a kid with no restrictions, no special medical needs. It also grounds me that even as he is getting more responsible in his own care, he isn’t ready to fully assume what caring for his body and his diabetes really requires.
This isn’t really a bad or a good thing. It’s just a snapshot of where 10-year-old James is right now. He’s still very much a child, dreaming and wishing and remaining relatively carefree regarding his medical condition. For right now, it seems quite sweet to me. May his childhood remain so untroubled, even just a few years longer. The day will come when he’ll have to take full responsibility for his medical needs. But that day isn’t here yet.
About the author: My name is Jennifer, and I live in Southern California with my husband, Craig, and our four children. Our oldest son James has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I’m thankful for this opportunity -- along with my sister-in-law Kim and her daughter Kaitlyn, who also has type 1 diabetes -- to share our struggles and triumphs with our friends in the diabetes community.
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.
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