Would you allow your Type 1 eleven year old child to go to another child's house after school if you did not know the parents well, or at all?
Had you asked me less than a year ago, the answer would have been 'absolutely not.' I may also have added a look which indicated I thought you should have your head examined just for asking.
Yet a couple of weeks ago, my daughter was invited to go to the home of a girl whose family I don't know. It was last minute. Several other girls were going, including a few of my daughter's closest friends. They were going to work on team t-shirts for an upcoming school event. She went.
Maybe you're thinking, 'of course she did.' Maybe you're thinking I'm the most irresponsible parent in the world. I'm still somewhere between those two myself, but I think it was the right decision.
I let her go because:
- I do everything in my power to never have to say 'no,' when it's qualified by 'because you have diabetes.'
- It's important that her middle school experience includes meeting new people and testing the waters of independence. These aren't her favorite activities. I felt I needed to encourage her willingness to go.
- I had it on good authority that the parents were kind and responsible people.
- If she'd made the shirt at home by herself I would have had to help her. The project involved some sort of aerosol fabric paint. It sounded terrifying.
- She's responsible with her diabetes tasks when she goes to friend's houses, so I trusted she would check and bolus as needed there.
- She had her cell phone with her and could text or call me at any time.
- Close friends were going with her, who know about her diabetes. They are girls I knew would support her if she needed it.
You know how this story ends. It ends the same way as most stories about children who are gently allowed brief flights from the nest. She bolused for some pretzels. She had fun making her shirt. She enjoyed hanging out with new friends and old. She came home happy.
For my daughter, now was a reasonable moment in time to allow this small yet significant step. She didn't go because she was eleven, or in fifth grade, or even because I have a healthy fear of fabric paint. She went because she was ready. We spend an extraordinary amount of time helping our children with diabetes develop the skills and confidence they need to care for their own diabetes. Each is ready for a different step towards independence at a different time. Yet at some point, the time comes for each of us when we must clutch our cell phones in our fists and allow them to go out there and use what they've learned.