Friday, May 23, 2014

It's not the numbers. It's the work.

I made mistakes with J. 

He was my first child with diabetes.  Like the first pancake, everything just isn’t going to turn out perfect with your first one.

One of the biggest mistakes I made was placing an emphasis on numbers.  I’ve been trying to correct the problem for a couple years now, with some headway…but damage has been done.

I’m “lucky” because I have a couple more to get it right with.  Most of you reading this will have one shot at raising a child with diabetes.  I write this post in hopes it’s not too late for you. 

You know those blood sugar numbers that pop up on the meter?  I believe that our children should not, in any way, worry about those numbers.

Never should we ever check a blood sugar monitor and make them feel any shame whatsoever about the value of the numbers on the screen.

Because the numbers are OUR problem.  Not their problem.

We should in no way expect stellar numbers and any sequence of numbers at all.  All we should expect from our children is for them to put in the work.

If they are actually checking their sugars, putting the numbers in the pump and bolusing for those numbers, or for those on MDI, correcting those numbers via shot...

And if they are blousing, (giving insulin,) for the food that goes in their mouth…

Then the numbers whether high or low are the problem of their endocrinologist, and the parent.

Correcting settings is the adult’s problem.  Consistent highs at night are the adult’s problem.  Lows after recess are the adult’s problem.

Doing the work?  Their problem.

The emphasis needs to lean towards good habits, not guilt for numbers that are as easily controlled as a rabid otter.

The number factor should be completely moot.  If we take the emotion and the fear away from the numbers, their lives will only be more rich and rewarding.  Because those numbers are never ever ever ever ever going away.  Why attach guilt so early on to something that is going to be a constant thread through everything they do, maybe forever?

Low numbers should mean food, and fast acting sugars…not fear of dying.

High numbers should mean corrections with insulin for relief from high symptoms…not fear of complications.

Let’s let them negotiate such difficult feelings when they are old enough to negotiate them.  Children shouldn’t be living in fear.  It’s our job to cradle that fear and hand it over to them piece by piece in such a slow rhythm that maybe the fear won’t impact their lives as significantly as it has impacted ours.

When should the conversations start about the consequences of numbers?  Certainly not when they have no control over the basal rates, the sensitivities and the carb ratios.   We can talk about not bolusing for food and the immediate consequences that holds.  Peeing a lot, headaches, concentration issues, not having energy to run during the soccer game…

They are children. 

I don’t expect any numbers from the boys.  Wait. That sounds totally self righttous.  Let me try that again.  I TRY not to expect any numbers from the boys.  I only expect them to do the work.  And if they do it…and the numbers don’t line up?  Not their problem.  My problem.  I will call the endo, and I will fix it. 

Here’s the deal:  If they do the work, more often than not the numbers will fall where they need to be.  And if the numbers don’t line up?  They shouldn’t feel guilt about it.  Sure, I’m not touching on how to get them to be consistent.  How can we do that without placing such importance on numbers?  What consequences will be doled out for not doing the work?  I think these answers are different for everybody.  That is why being a parent is so hard...figuring this stuff out can be frustrating at best.

If you haven’t noticed, this world has gotten a little more complicated than when we were kids.  There is a lot on my boys’ plates, even if we were able to take diabetes out of the picture.

If we can help take away the visceral guilt from the numbers on the screen, and then help replace that with the mechanics of how to fix the number, and the tools to find the right people to make consistent out of range numbers better…I think we could create a generation of empowered people with diabetes.

My 12 year old will be returning from 6th grade camp today.  When I check his meter’s history I won’t be looking at the numbers as much as I will be looking at the times he tested.  My discussion will be on frequency, not on number values.

Because any number is better than no number.

If I’ve learned anything from being the mother to a teenager with diabetes…I’ve learned that.


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