Do not ask that your kids live up to your expectations.
Let your kids be who they are, and your expectations will be in breathless pursuit. ~Robert Brault
I had to leave Camp Soaring Eagle‘s second JDRF weekend camp session for kids because of a severe infection. I was so upset. If I was a cartoon, I would be red with fume marks above my head. I refuse to stew on it, so let me get to the point of this post.
Even through the blinding pain, I was still able to make observations in the short time that I was there. My new observations did not conflict with all my past observations from my job, but gave them depth.
Our first weekend with Camp Soaring Eagle in September was with teens (ages 12-15), and this one was for the younger group (8-11). We knew that teens were hard to socialize, but that was overcome and the older kids really let themselves have a good time. For kids, we knew we would have more of a medical and behavioral challenge as the younger ones might have more difficulties with home sickness, knowing their bodies enough to convey needing assistance and higher highs and lower lows in a matter of minutes because they are still small. Food would be different, stress levels higher, activity levels different. Needless to say, we felt good about having one adult for every two kids including a lot of medical staff. Ever walked into a hospital wishing it was more fun and outdoors? Yeah, that was camp we had so many medical volunteers. All of our volunteers were passionate and having a great time. Had to give a shout out. Volunteers, woo-hoo!
Anyway, back to my observation. My first observation ever of a child with diabetes left me bug-eyed, because I thought (and still do) that type 1 diabetes was a cruel diagnosis. Needles, heavy responsibility and kids do not mix. I’ve met so many kids, all of them reigniting my faith in the human spirit. Such strength. BUT I always saw them with parents or guardians.
Watching the younger kids away from home was really amazing. They are still kids. Running, jumping, laughing and living in a world fueled by imagination. Lots and lots of pure PLAY. Made me miss childhood. Adults have so many obligations, concerns and responsibilities that are just on us constantly. Kids are weightless…until.
Diabetes must be managed, and what I observed happens in a blink of an eye, and if you are not paying attention you miss it. When it was time to check blood glucose (BG) levels, take insulin or correct a high or low, the kid vanished. The look in the eyes completely changed, posture changed, lines appeared on the face. Almost as if the thought process was, “Okay, gotta stop being a kid right now, think and take care of this.” They were calm, deliberate, and had discussions with medical staff. They dedicated their time and focus to this discussion. At such a young age, they knew that they had to take care of themselves. For a mind so young soaking in a constant flood of new information, with lots of other kids around, they stopped and applied what they knew for their health in order to resume play.
One little guy blew me away. At evening snack, his BG was in target. He appreciated this BG, and wanted to keep it. His med staff volunteer talked to him about next steps and worked with him so he could make this decision. He engaged her and said, “One cookie and half of the milk.” He thought about it some more, then took his snack, sat down, ate one cookie and drank half of the milk. He came back to me, shook his milk cartoon and reported that it was about half. I confirmed his report and he watched to make sure our med staff was writing it down. He was in a kitchen full of kids and cookies. I have a hard time thinking straight when around cookies.
Then, just like that, after the pricks, the application of knowledge and the adjustments, the kid comes back. Imagination rules once again. Giggles resume.
I don’t know if parents get to see this too often. As the main manager of diabetes, parents might not get the full picture of what kids take on when Mom and Dad are not around. If you are a parent with a kid with diabetes, I hope you know that they when you are not there to take care of them, they really try to remember all the things they do with you to manage diabetes and how each decision impacts their bodies. They remember. They care to remember. Rebellion may come, and that is normal, but for such young people to understand that health, happiness and fun follow managing diabetes to the best of their ability is quite remarkable. Yes, indeed.
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