Still Lending a Hand
Our family has experienced several turning points over the years when it comes to my daughter taking on increased responsibility for her care. To us, each of these has been a big deal. She can check her own blood sugar! She can troubleshoot enough to be left alone at a birthday party! She can count her own carbs at a restaurant with friends! She can change her own site! She can go away overnight! The list of these moments is long. For some families, this list doesn't exist at all because their kids were diagnosed at an age when they naturally took on all or at least most of these tasks independently from the start. For others of us, it's been and continues to be a long incremental journey.
Sometimes I feel weird, or even guilty, that I still help my daughter with her Dexcom sensor insertions or that until a couple of years ago I did almost all of her site changes. The little voice in my head nags, 'She's a teenager for goodness' sake- she should be doing all of this by herself. Other kids are doing it by 8.'
But if I step back and reflect on how we got here, it feels okay.
When she was diagnosed at 13 months old, we did EVERYTHING. Obviously.
Then around 3 she wanted to help...as many 3-year-olds want to do. It's the 'I can do it by myself 'age and we took full advantage. She learned to use the lancet and apply blood to the test strip. She learned to read the number on the glucometer out loud. She learned to gather all of the supplies for her site changes. She was in charge of separating the various wipe packets which come in perforated pairs of two. She also spent quite a bit of time taking care of the diabetes needs of her dolls and stuffed animals who, occasionally, also had to count carbs at tea parties, check their blood sugar or drink juice boxes.
By the age of 5 she knew how to use her insulin pump, with supervision and an adult counting the carbs. She knew to drink a juice box if her meter said she was low and to wait 15 minutes and check again before she could go back to what she was doing - again, with an adult around to support her.
In early elementary school she learned how to count and bolus for a simple snack like goldfish crackers or pretzels so that she could go to a friend's house after school.
If she WANTED to do it, we figured out how to make that happen. If she didn't want to, we didn't push.
She now, of necessity, knows how to do it all. And yet, still, I help if asked. Diabetes is a huge undertaking. For now, the least I can do is give her a hand filling the insulin cartridge if she has to do a site change in a hurry, or be an extra set of hands for the awkward Dexcom insertion. She's going to have to do it all by herself soon enough.