What can a simple bowl of cereal represent? For a child with T1D, more than you might think. I don’t blame my sweet child for her desire for normalcy. To her, a bowl of cereal should just be a bowl of cereal and not a set of carbs that require counting and mathematical formulas to determine units of insulin to be given prior to eating. I get it on some level, though I can’t understand her experience completely. As a mom, I just want to protect her and care for her. That makes it easy at dinner time to grab her insulin pump, determine the carbs on my own and plug it into her pump. But, doing this does not help her. In fact, it harms her more than it could ever help her. In our world, a simple bowl of cereal can represent independence. One of the things you learn as a parent of a child with T1D is that you must gradually build independence into your sweet child’s routine. The first step, is building their confidence to test their own blood sugar before meal time. This includes the times when they don’t want to check it. The goal, as I understand it, is to create the habit of mind and practice so that it becomes second nature. As our sweet ones get older they must also dose and give insulin on their own.
One of the biggest hurdles, that sometimes isn’t discussed, are parent mindsets that stop this journey to independence. I’ll speak for myself here. As a self identified mama bear, I want to protect and care for my children. There is a part of me that wants to cater to them in certain areas of their lives as a way of conveying love for them. Over time, I’ve lagged on prioritizing the building my sweet one’s independence over to trying to ‘take care of her’. In doing this, I stopped focusing on building her ability to care for herself. I guess, now that she’s almost a tween… is there a specific age for a tween? I have to place building her own independence back towards the top of the list in showing her how I love her. So, it’s back to the basics for us. On the list of things we are committing to as a family to build that independence we are including:
- Counting her own carbs – A is great at math. She doesn’t need the practice in counting at this age, and her pump does the calculating for her. However, for each meal she will calculate her own carbs so it becomes automatic, especially when we are not there.
- Managing her insulin pump- Given her age, after she plugs in her blood sugar and carb count, we check to make sure that everything was entered correctly. However, we will not be doing the entering for her.
- Learning how to change her infusion sites and change insulin cartridges – We currently do this for her. She is so intimidated by putting a needle in her own skin. I don’t blame her. However, we are starting to show her how to change the cartridge. Even though she learned this when we first started pumping, she wasn’t focused on the process at that time. Now the timing seems right.
- Working to remove mindset of deprivation – For some reason our sweet one still feels like there are things she can’t have. I think this might be reinforced at school. This builds resentment. We continue to work to communicate that she can have what she wants to eat. There are no limits.
- Choices… I continue to emphasize to A that this is her body and as such, she needs to make decision about it. I don’t feel I should tell her what she has to do, but talk with her like a little adult about the choices that exits and what happens when she makes them.
Moral of the story here? Let them eat cereal responsibly.