There are a few significant events in every parent’s journey that mark a time of pride and excitement; first words spoken, first steps, the first time you say goodbye to your child at the babysitter, preschool, kindergarten… These are events worth documenting, photographing and celebrating.
But some of these events are also pretty darn anxiety laden. It isn’t easy for parents — often (but not always) moms — to say goodbye to our babies and trust their care to someone else. But we must, and we do. Sometimes it doesn’t feel natural, but it’s a part of life, right? …to say goodbye and help our children make that slow journey toward ever increasing independence.
Jenna has begun her school journey. She is attending full time kindergarten and, in all honesty, she is absolutely loving it. She no longer has to feel left behind watching her big sister walk into the school every morning. She is a big kid now, in real school. She is ready.
Sure, she had some anxiety at first. She was shy, withdrawn and a little lost. But her teacher, Ms. C, handled it beautifully and in no time Jenna warmed up to her.
Of course, the big pink elephant standing right smack-dab in the middle of the room is…
Without question Jenna’s diabetes has been a tricky one to juggle. There are a few factors that make it so:
- Jenna is far from completely independent with her diabetes management. (Of course she is, she’s five.)
- Jenna is often unaware of her lows until she is well below what constitutes a low.
- Jenna is stoic. This scares the ever-loving stuffing out of me as she is not apt to speak up if she is having a problem, preferring to avoid the spotlight and be “just like all the other kids.”
- No staff member at the school is legally allowed to administer either insulin OR glucagon to a child with type 1 diabetes in our province.
- A single teacher in a busy kindergarten class of 20 young children, all equally deserving of attention, cannot possibly be expected to do her job AND watch a child with type 1 diabetes for the often subtle signs and symptoms of hypo or hyperglycemia, let alone react to a low or high in the appropriate way. (I have two children and trust me – this is no easy task at the best of times.)
- Since no staff are able to give glucagon, it is absolutely vital that Jenna receive timely intervention in the event of a low to avoid a dire situation.
Given these obstacles, it was crucial that we obtain government funding for an additional support staff in the classroom to assist Jenna with her care.
The trouble was, we had to actually prove that she really does need this assistance.
Jenna’s pediatrician likely anticipated this because I received a letter from him this summer stating that her medical condition placed her in the special category that makes her eligible for this added support. That letter turned out to be the means to a fabulous end and the way it played out was beautiful poetry to this D-Mom who felt all kinds of panic wondering why I actually had to prove my daughter’s need for help to ensure her safety while in school. To me it was as clear as the nose on my face. But this is the system we have and this is the way things are done.
This summer I met twice with the public health nurse who gathered all the pertinent data regarding Jenna’s medical needs and her care. She drafted a care plan outlining, to the utmost specificity, how Jenna’s diabetes management is to be conducted in school: If A, then B. Then follow up with C fifteen minutes later. However, if D, then E…
It is clear, precise and to be followed to the nth.
This care plan was presented at a meeting we — members of the school staff, the public health nurse and I — had last week in preparation for Jenna’s school start this past Monday. This meeting was to provide diabetes training to the staff and give a chance for the concerns of everyone involved to be voiced. The vice principle was also present. She is the lady with pull. She, along with the letter from Jenna’s pediatrician, was key in achieving the ideal outcome.
When the meeting was winding down, I noticed her eyes were wide as she digested the full scope of what she had learned. She realized that this was a life and death situation which would require constant diligence and monitoring beyond what one teacher would be capable of. She promptly excused herself from the meeting stating she had some phone calls to make in her office, assuring us that she would be back.
Staff members who had been pulling for us since last spring when this whole process got started gave me subtle, reassuring pats on the back. They knew her and knew that this reaction bode well for us.
I whispered to Jenna’s teacher “What does this mean?”
“It’s a very good sign. She realizes now what we are dealing with. She can make this happen for us” she whispered back then gave me a wink.
It was all I could do to maintain my composure. All the anxiety and fears I had been living with regarding Jenna’s start in the public school system that dated all the way back to her diagnosis were daring to subside.
The vice principle returned not 15 minutes later and announced that Jenna would have an assistant assigned to her in the class room for four hours everyday.
And it was like letting go of something I had been clutching with a death grip for three and a half years.
It was validation. They understood how precarious my child’s health is — the fine line we walk.
So now Jenna is attending classes everyday and looking every inch the big girl, school kid that she is in her new school clothes with her giant backpack on her back. I still go in to the school to give her boluses for her snack and her lunch — that won’t change until Jenna is old enough to do so on her own with supervision — and, until today, I had been spending my days in that little room off her class room to be available in case there were any questions. But my presence there has become less necessary as her worker, who is so awesome, has become more confident and capable. I must remain in town (we live rurally, almost a twenty minute drive from the school) to bolus and in case there is a problem — a stubborn high, a dislodged infusion site, etc. — but I am quickly phasing out my constant presence there.
And now it’s my turn to feel lost — proud and relieved, but lost, nonetheless. Suddenly I am struggling to fill some free time and it’s a foreign feeling. I am trusting others to ensure my child’s safety, as capable as they are. I won’t deny it, I’ve had some moments of anxiety sneak up and put me in a head-lock. But I’ll be okay. If there is one thing I am, it’s tough. That is undeniable. I’ve been able to wrestle free from the anxiety when it does ambush me. I just remember that there are good people at that school who really care about my daughter and her wellbeing. They want her to be safe too.
Another milestone, complicated by diabetes, has been reached. Now there’s just the dreaded teen years and college to worry about.
Just keep blogging, Sherry — just keep blogging…