One of many things I have always admired about my husband is that he is so comfortable with his Type 1 diabetes. Ever since I met him he has checked his blood sugar in public, given himself insulin (the many years he was on multiple daily injections,) and had no problem with people knowing. I don't ever remember him specifically telling people, but taking care of his diabetes was just part of who he was, and he never hid it.
From the start, we have approached Jessica's diabetes the same way. She was seven when she was diagnosed so she really didn't have her own viewpoint on managing diabetes. We checked her blood sugar in public, gave her injections, encouraged her to speak on the topic whether on the radio, or at school.
But, she turns eleven very soon. She will be entering middle school. She is now developing her own T1 identity. And, she has every right to.
And, it turns out, that despite all of our efforts to encourage otherwise (right or wrong,) she does not feel the same way as Sean.
Nor, has she had the same life path as Sean. He was diagnosed at almost 18, when he was much more immune to teasing and bullying, and when it was much less likely to occur.
Jess has had her fair share of nasty comments this year. She has come home upset many days by things classmates have said. Ten year olds aren't the nicest bunch, and I am sure middle school will be worse.
She has ripped out her dexcom site the evening of the spring concert as she didn't want everyone to see it while she was on stage.
She has hidden her pump, and refused to wear a dexcom while swimming for fear people will see.
I caught a small glimpse of a benign version of what she must deal with on a daily basis.
As a special elementary school graduation gift, I took the girls and we got pedicures together. This should have been a time Jess could just relax and enjoy. The woman doing her nails meant no harm at all. But I listened as she said "If you don't mind me asking, what is that on your arm? (Jess's dexcom site.)
Jess does mind. She hates answering these questions. Like any almost 11 year old girl she hates being different.
As I listened to her explain that she had Type 1 and what it is, I realized that even while getting a pedicure she doesn't get a break. She can't even get her nails done without a reminder that she is different. And, as she told me after the pedicure, she hates this. Of course we talked about how it is an opportunity for education and advocacy. But, you know what? The bottom line is that is sucks. How many 10 year olds have to answer questions like that while simply trying to have a moment of relaxation?
Jess started a new day camp this week. She as usual is a super hero. There is no nurse, and she is completely self managing. I am so proud of her.
Last night, she tentatively said "Mom, can I tell you something?" She shared with me that she is going to the bathroom to check her blood sugars.
She realizes this is not what our family has ever done. This is not what her dad does. And, she is questioning whether this is ok. Can she find her own way as a Type 1 individual in our family?
I tell her I am so proud of her for how well she is taking care of herself at camp. I tell her that she needs to do whatever she is comfortable with.
I have not made her wear the dexcom this week. Sean hasn't realized yet that I am giving her this break. I am back to nightly 2 am blood sugar checks. But, it is one way I can help her define who she is. She doesn't want the dexcom this week. She doesn't want one more gadget that makes her different. And, I think that is ok. My hope is that by a give and take she will be more accepting and adjusted in the long run.
I need to talk to Sean. He is such an amazing dad. But, he is so secure in his own Type 1, and he was never an almost 11 year old girl. We need to allow her to develop her own Type 1 identity.
There is no instruction book on how to parent kids with Type 1. We had hoped that we were raising Jess in a way that she would see diabetes as Sean does...his greatest strength.
And, maybe we are.
But, life is a journey. Jess needs safety, acceptance, and love to explore and figure out who she will be. Will she always test in the bathroom and try to hide any outside evidence that she is different, or will she someday be more like Sean?
We need to reassure her that either way is ok. We love her no matter what.
As, I wrote on her note in her lunchbox today, she is my super hero. And, if she needs to hide that fact that she is a super hero like Clark Kent did, then that is ok with me.