Okay, I have gone through the first day of kindergarten before. Of course I went when I was 5, but what I'm talking about is when I went through the elaborate ritual of sending two of my own children through the doors that led to the next 13 years of public education. With my oldest two, I registered them for kindergarten in advance, bought new backpacks, lunch boxes and clothes. I worried about how they would acclimate, what their teacher would be like. Would I break down and cry? Would they? Well, despite my fears, the day arrived, we took pictures of the momentous event, the teacher told the kids to give one last hug and kiss, and then we sent them off armed with glue sticks and lunch.
Kaitlyn starts kindergarten soon and you would think that by child #3, I would be feeling calm and prepared for the big day. Nothing could be further from the truth! I'm so nervous! Besides the normal fears of sending a child to school for the first time, I have all the worries that come with handing over the care and safety of a daughter with a serious medical condition! Up until now, I've been able to be 100% involved in her diabetes care. Pretty soon, she'll be away from me for five hours a day, five days a week!
Aside from my being out of constant contact with her, she will enter a new world of snacks and lunches at school and physical education once or twice a week. Plus, there will be all kinds of parties, birthday celebrations and field trips.
Common questions bouncing around in my head are: What if she goes low? What if she goes high? What if she's not able to concentrate and do her work if she's out of range? Will she be brave enough to tell her teacher that she's not feeling well? What if they forget to tell me or the nurse about a party or special treat? Will the other kids act nervous or be unkind to her knowing that she has this medical condition?
So far, I have done four things to prepare for the big day:
1. After consulting with our physician for a medical management plan, I called the school in advance. Waaaay in advance. By doing that, I was able to find out that we could set up what's called a 504 Plan (which, in our school district, provides access to an in-school registered nurse who could be trained to check blood glucose levels, dose her for meals or administer treatment for severe low blood sugar). During kindergarten registration at the end of the last school year, we were able to meet with the nurse, principal and other school staff to set a plan in place, so that everyone would be ready for her to come on the first day.
2. I have taken the opportunity to talk to the principal and nurse on a regular basis. I think it helps to plant those conversational seeds early and often. I will do the same with her teacher when she begins school.
3. I have committed to being reliable with my cell phone. I will keep it with me and always know its charge status. It's that important. I have to be accessible.
4. I kept my plans flexible for the first two weeks of kindergarten in case I had to respond to a school call.
I want Kaitlyn to be able to have a public education and enjoy all the experiences that my other children have had. I think that with a good plan in place, everything will work out just fine. Until then, I'm definitely not looking forward to an extra difficult, tear-filled last hug and kiss!
About the author: My name is Kim. My daughter Kaitlyn (the third of our five children) was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes just a few years after my nephew James was diagnosed with the same disease. I'm excited to pair up with my sister-in-law, Jen, to share our story with you!
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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