Q: My daughter's blood sugar numbers were all over the place on the day tryouts were held for the school softball team. She still went, but just didn't have the energy to perform well and didn't make the team. Do I talk to the coach and make him allow my daughter to try out again -- or just let it go? She's pretty sad about it.
A: There is a teachable moment here, but it may not be the one you anticipated. Simply put, as much as you want to protect your child from disappointment, it's a bad idea to use type 1 diabetes as an excuse for not doing well at something. It's the softball team now, but once you start going down this slippery slope, diabetes could be blamed as the reason why your daughter can't do her homework, why she didn't do well on a test, or even why she doesn't keep her room clean. Part of getting the message across that diabetes in no way limits a person's life experiences is accepting that disappointments and unexpected outcomes in life happen all the time -- with or without a chronic medical condition.
Does this mean you should dismiss the fact that your daughter had a bad day with her blood sugar? Absolutely not. There is no changing the past, but there is a way to prepare for the future. As an exercise physiologist and certified diabetes educator, I have taught countless kids with diabetes how to successfully combine sports and diabetes management. Our mantra is, "If you can predict it, you can prevent it." For example, knowing that tryouts are coming up may be a good way to motivate a child to commit to her management plan with renewed zeal, realizing that how she feels when she steps up to bat has a big impact on her performance.
I often see the same thing with older students who have high blood sugar on the day of a big test. Rather than postpone the test, it's up to them to correct the high. Kids with diabetes usually need to experience this in order to truly understand it, but managing blood sugar is truly the best way to keep it from getting in the way.
So what about the softball team? If it means that much to your daughter, make it her responsibility to explain to the coach what happened, if she so chooses. She can ask for the opportunity to try out again, but should not demand it. It's likely the coach will allow your child a chance to demonstrate her skills, but that's still no guarantee she'll make the team.
However, if she does, great. This means shifting focus to managing blood sugar in light of increased physical activity. If she doesn't make it, that's okay, too. In addition to practicing her pitching and catching for next year, she'll have time to practice managing her blood sugar in the face of whatever curveballs come her way.
--Gary Scheiner is a certified diabetes educator, exercise physiologist and founder of Integrated Diabetes Services in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. He's had type 1 diabetes for over 20 years.
How Other Parents Deal
"When my son has a cold, he stays home from school just like any other kid, and I write the note asking for a make-up test or whatever work he missed. If he has a random high or low, we just treat as we've been taught and keep going. It was a tough lesson to learn, but the world doesn't stop turning just because my son has diabetes."
--Suzanne C., mom of Andrew
Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.