Jen: Swim Class -- In Over His Head

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Most of the time, I'm glad my kids aren't daredevils. What I mean is, the fact that both James and Luke are afraid of heights means that they didn't climb the refrigerator as toddlers or the trees as young kids. Since they're afraid of going fast, they're careful on scooters and bikes. And while I think all parents have a primal fear of kids around bodies of water, at least I know mine have a healthy aversion to getting in over their heads!

Not that there aren't also many downsides. I'd love to be able to ride Space Mountain with my sisters-in-law and nephews, but my kids won't have anything to do with roller coasters. Another bigger problem is when they're too afraid to try anything, and it starts alienating them socially.

Last summer, I glanced around the pool and saw all ten of the local cousins swimming in some capacity. Then I noticed that the spa had the three non-swimmers: Kim's 3-year-old, my 4-year-old, and James. I noticed that he would occasionally glance wistfully at what the other kids were doing as they took turns diving in the deep end or retrieving rings from the bottom of the pool, but he was NOT going to get out of the spa, no sir! At age 7, he still wouldn't venture into the pool to play with his cousins or peers.

Well, that needed to change. We'd tried a few things already. James had taken the run-of-the-mill group lessons through the YMCA®, but he refused to follow the directions of the teacher. So then I gave it a go. After all, I taught my littlest sister to swim, and she went on to the state swim meet as a high-schooler. Of course, I credit this mostly to her natural talent rather than my teaching methods. And they didn't work with James. Finally, we realized, we needed help.

This woman, a local swim teacher, is known as really tough. To many children, she's just a nice older lady that has loads of practice and experience motivating kids to learn to love the water. For that other group, like my kids, she's known as a hardliner, and there can be quite a bit of crying involved.

I was very nervous to put James in a situation where he would be upset and in the water. I know that emotions can cause fluctuating blood sugar. It took a lot for me to want to submit myself, let alone my son, to a situation where his blood sugar could potentially drop so very quickly. But when I saw him sitting with the preschoolers in the spa, I knew it was my duty to make sure he could swim.

James started lessons and, honestly, he must have just been ready. He actually cried very little, if at all. He knew that the swim coach meant business and decided not to test whether her will was stronger than his. His lessons were an hour long, longer than any other classes in the area. And they turned out to be a complete non-issue with regard to his type 1 diabetes.

I made sure that James tested his blood sugar before hopping in the water, and I gave him an extra-special-just-in-case juice. Then, about midway through the lesson, I'd amble over to where he was and test him. He didn't even have to get out of the water. I brought a towel and the kit and made sure he was toward the high end of his target range. Sometimes, often even, he would need juice again. We found that although his emotions didn't play a big role in his blood sugar numbers, the exertion of the lessons really showed in how quickly his blood sugar dropped.

Now I'm happy to say that James can swim with his peers. While it's great for his social life and for his health (swimming is, after all, excellent exercise), I do worry a little bit about him now. It's a beautiful thing to see him confidently plunge head first into the water, but I won't say I don't hold my breath until he's back up safe, sitting next to me on the deck, complaining that all the other kids want to watch a scary movie.


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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