It is with some shame that I recall a recent conversation I had with Kim.
Kim and I were talking about schools and how they handle birthday parties, considering all the kids with special diet-related needs, like type 1 diabetes. I was explaining that I feel somewhat fortunate, because in our current school, unplanned treats are not allowed, and I LOVE it. She was telling me that Kaitlyn often has to bring home her cupcake, because treats show up so frequently in the classroom. This set me off in a way that was totally inappropriate.
First, I got upset about all the sugar in the classroom. Fine. That’s kind of my mini-rant and soapbox issue, and I think Kim can forgive me for my strong and somewhat unsolicited opinions. But then I was angry at the teacher/nurse/aide who couldn’t figure out the carb count of the cupcake so Kaitlyn could eat it at the same time as all the other kids. Kim had to gently stop and explain to me that it didn’t really bother Kaitlyn, and it didn’t really bother her either. They were FINE with the arrangement. (Hear more of her thoughts on the subject here.)
This is when I should have stopped. I had probably already overstepped my position as concerned aunt. But I just kept going. Kim finally said diplomatically, “I guess we’ll just have to agree that we do things differently,” which changed the subject and saved the conversation. Thank heavens for cooler heads prevailing that day!
While I think it’s okay to have strong opinions about stuff, I think we all need to be sensitive to the fact that what works for certain families WORKS for certain families! And even if I’m a busybody aunt and self-professed “type 1 diabetes activist,” my opinion is never more important than the opinion of the parents. In part, this is because we all hold our own philosophies about child-rearing. We have the right and responsibility to choose which battles are important for us to fight and which aren’t.
It is also because as parents, often times we know the situation more intimately than even a close friend or relative can perceive, and judgments can definitely be made in error. Kim later clued me in that there are good reasons why she is okay with Kaitlyn having her cupcake later. Which just underscores the whole point -- a parent has access to so many details. Details that make a big difference, and even the most concerned aunt doesn't have the whole picture and shouldn't judge.
It reminds me of a situation we had a few years ago. James was at a school that would give him insulin before lunch and then send him off to eat with his friends. Unfortunately, he was not very consistent about finishing his food, resulting in low blood sugar in the afternoon hours. The school came up with the solution of having him eat his lunch in the office. Initially, this made my blood boil. “No, he should eat with his friends! He shouldn’t be ‘punished’ for having diabetes, etc.” I posted online about the interchange, and it seemed the diabetes community got behind me.
Thankfully, before I came to the school and insisted on having it my way, I started really thinking, and I brought the situation to my mom who is an elementary school teacher. When I first explained that the school wanted him to eat in the office (with a friend of his choosing), she said, “Cool!” Perplexed, I asked her what she meant. She explained to me that kids in her class would probably have loved that, and that changed my thinking a little. I asked James how he felt about eating in the office, choosing a new friend every day to come and eat with him, and he said it sounded fun.
Turns out, it was really desirable to be picked by James to eat in the office. The staff was able to monitor his food intake, his blood sugars were steady, and he had fun! So even though I respect my friends in the online community and their strong opinions and dedicated advocacy, I made a different choice for my family, and it worked great. We can each do it differently, and that’s okay.
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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