James is at a charter school. Let me tell you, I love this school! I’ve waxed poetic about our amazing school nurse before, but I also really like the feeling and energy at this place. Because of overwhelming parental involvement, James’ current school has lots of extra programs -- everything from music class to mini courses on animal husbandry to field trips almost once a month.
One such extra program was the “Secret Pal” program. The idea is simple: The kids fill out a sheet of their likes and preferences, and then a classmate selects your sheet and gives you secret presents based on your interests. It’s like a Secret Santa, just not in December.
To fulfill this assignment, I schlepped all three kids to a couple of stores and then finally to a little local bookshop. We found some stuff that would work, and it turned out to be kind of fun. I personally like selecting “perfect” presents for kids, and James and I felt good about what we got. We were particularly excited about presenting the child with a book that encompassed many of his favorite interests and was just at his reading level.
I was present at the gift exchange, in part because it was combined with a party where I was helping to count the carbs and administer insulin for James. All I can say is, it’s a good thing I was there.
First, our “pal” opened his gift. He seemed really happy. I thought to myself, “Phew! We did well!” Then it was James’ turn to open his gift. He gets his bag and takes out…a package of candy. Then another, and another, and one more, and finally…another one, but this one is huge. So for his Secret Pal gift, James got five packages of the same kind of candy and nothing else.
So wouldn’t you know it -- James is thrilled. And my feelings are…complicated. First, I put my practiced stoic face on. I am NOT thrilled, but my face will not belie my mixed-up emotions seething under the surface! Most of me is just thinking, “Bite-size fruit candies, that’s going to be hard to count and take care of.” But I also know right then and there that because I want him to feel free to enjoy “any kind of food any other kid can eat,” James will be able to have some candy. At the same time, I know that he cannot possibly just go home and consume FIVE bags of it in one sitting. This would not only be difficult for a child with diabetes, but I don’t think that is a good practice for ANY child!
In the car on the way home, I opened the subject like this: “James, you know you can’t just go home and go to town with that candy.” He looked pretty dejected.
“Aw, that’s not fair! It’s because I have diabetes!”
“No honey, it really isn’t. I wouldn’t let Luke eat that much candy either. Let’s work something out.”
I suggested that maybe he can trade in his candy for a coveted new toy. But he’s still wavering. He really doesn’t want to totally relinquish his candy presents. So I compromise and say that he can have the toy and keep all of the candy, but I’ll portion it out into smaller bags, and he can have one bag every Friday movie night until they’re gone. He agreed readily at this point.
So I made my second trip to the store in as many days, we selected his toy and that was that. It may seem like an odd compromise, but it was really the best kind. He’s happy that he gets to keep his candy and also gets a toy. I’m thrilled that he doesn’t feel left out, but also that he’s eating a much healthier, more reasonable amount of candy. Win-win!
About the author: My name is Jennifer, and I live in Southern California with my husband, Craig, and our three boys. 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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