Jen: Learning to Let Go

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Older kids get to do cool stuff. And it kind of freaks me out. This year James got to enjoy the school carnival with his friends (instead of as part of mom's entourage), went to a birthday party solo, got dropped off at Cub Scout® camp, and waited in line for a ride at Disneyland® with just his cousins and no grownup! This represents major growth for James and for me too.

When James was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, he experienced a little bit of separation anxiety. My normally fearless and totally well-adjusted kid was, for the first time, anxious whenever I left the room. I think it must have had something to do with the monumental changes in his life, and I think I served as a stabilizing force, a stationary post in a changing sea. I remember not being able to leave his sight for eight months after diagnosis.

Of course, the feelings were rather mutual. I remember feeling afraid for the longest time to leave James. Even with the best caregiver -- even with his father -- I felt a sense of dread that maybe the minute I left him alone something major or tragic would happen. And I think that my anxiety lasted a good deal longer than eight months!

I've been letting go by degrees. First, I learned to trust my husband who, despite making mistakes (like all of us!) early on, of course takes amazing care of James and always has. I'm so lucky that way. Then, I left him with Kim, who demonstrated empathy and compassion. Finally, despite a sometimes rocky start with school personnel, I got to the point where I entrusted James to the care of his school nurse.

But my instinct to grab James and hold on for dear life is not totally gone. Even though I can leave him in the care of others for large stretches of time, I feel a little panicky if he's out of my sight while he's in my care. I think part of that is just getting accustomed to new levels of trust and having trouble letting go of my control over every aspect of James' life. After all, he's my oldest kid! I remember when, as an infant, I'd bring him with me into the bathroom!

And of course, there's the whole diabetes aspect. I won't lie and say that my worries don't have their roots at least partially in my fear that something will happen to him -- he'll have low blood sugar, he'll forget and eat some candy, or some other scenario. Low blood sugar is my biggest fear, but there are oodles of things that worry me tremendously.

In some ways, though, holding him close is the easy way out. He's getting older and more independent, and he desperately wants to be like his friends. I've started considering, when he asks to do something alone, if I would say yes to a kid that doesn't have diabetes. If I would let Luke do it when he is James' age, I feel obligated to try to figure out a way to help James do it too.

So I'm learning to put safeguards into place and to try to trust James and our system. It isn't perfect. At Cub Scout camp, for example, I checked up on him once and found him far from his adult leader and his blood glucose meter! But he was fine, and the lesson was learned. I haven't learned to let go at swimming parties yet, even though another adult is always there supervising. The water still freaks me out. I'm working on it though, and working to help James grow in the right ways toward independence.

I must say, I'm super happy that he still likes to hold my hand in public. I know those days are limited, though, and that's one thing that I'm not looking forward to letting go!


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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Related topics:
A Year-by-Year Guide to Type 1 Self-Care
Giving Your Child More Freedom -- the Safe Way
When Tweens Become Teens: Parental Guidance Suggested

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