OH MY GOSH! How do you parents of school-aged kids with diabetes do it?!
Honestly, I’m in a bit of a pickle.
So, Jenna started junior kindergarten last week. Now, keep in mind that Jenna has just undergone a major life shake-up, having just moved. You may also want to factor in the fact that Jenna has been by my side almost constantly since she was born. Her diagnosis was at 2 years of age - I didn’t go back to work after I had her, and her diabetes has made it difficult to be away from her for any longer than 2-3 hours at any one time. I have had no weekends away - no days at work... nothing. So Jenna is accustomed to me being there.
Now, developmentally speaking, I know that she is at an age where she can handle school. She is very ready for the classroom environment and to start the formal, structured learning process. Developmentally speaking!
Emotionally, however? All things considered? Not so much.
She cried. A LOT. She did not want me to leave her. We tried, my husband and I. And it would be one thing if we could just go and not return until the end of the day. But, since the school hasn’t had a chance to arrange special needs care -- heck, they don’t even have a diabetes protocol prepared yet! And since it isn’t clear which province will be footing the bill for said special needs care due to our recent move from the west coast, I must be available twice in the day to check Jenna’s blood sugar and administer her insulin while the school gets its ducks in order. Furthermore, since no one in the school has any solid knowledge about type 1 diabetes, I am incredibly uncomfortable leaving her for any length of time anyway! It’s all those what ifs we know all too well. What if she goes low? What if she goes high? What if she goes so low she requires glucagon?
Anyway, I’ve been somewhat consumed by this over the weekend. Should I persist and bring her again tomorrow? Should I insist on staying with her in the classroom until she is comfortable?
Or maybe I should just let it go for now -- maybe even skip the junior K experience altogether and wait until next September to start senior K. By then we will have moved into our permanent home and we will be more settled - more stable. Jenna will have had a chance to get her bearings - maybe even develop a strong desire to start school.
I should tell you that Jenna is strongly in favour of that last option. And I want to take her feelings into account here. She may only be 4 and 3/4 years old, but she has been through a lot. She knows what she needs in some respects. And right now, I believe her when she says she isn’t ready. I trust her when she tells me “I just want to wait until I’m a little older, Mommy.”
Furthermore, the school isn’t ready for Jenna’s diabetes. They are clearly daunted by idea of a type 1 diabetic, junior kindergartener right now. They are intimidated by it. (To give credit where credit is due, they have asked a lot of the right questions and have attempted to see to our needs - this, in spite of having to talk myself down when they recommended I conduct her blood sugar checks and insulin bolusing in a “handicapped bathroom” located at the end of a long hallway, a considerable distance from the kindergarten classroom - a suggestion that smacked of discrimination and an attempt to hide the perceived blood and gore away from all those “fragile little kindergarten minds." But that is another post I will write very soon.)
And to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I’m ready to entrust her diabetes care to a stranger. I’m feeling hyper-protective of Jenna right now in light of all the changes she has endured. And I’m not sure I’m up for the task of educating those requiring education and dispelling the myths and prejudices to make this school diabetes-friendly. Not just yet. I have a lot on my plate right now and the task of educating and preparing the school is one that requires my full attention and a great deal of preparation. If I wait, I will have the next seven months to do just that. And that might just make a huge difference in how both Jenna and I feel about her starting her scholastic journey.
If anyone has any advice, resources or ideas regarding how to make this school a safe place for Jenna, I’d been keen on hearing from you. I’ve been told by the office staff that Jenna will be the first child with type 1 diabetes they have had in attendance, as hard as that is to believe. I think I have my work cut out for me.
Jenna has been attending her junior kindergarten class with me present. Initially, I decided to wait until next September to start her in senior kindergarten. But after talking to the principal about this and being assured that Jenna’s school day duration could be shortened to accommodate her anxiety, and after being told I could remain in the class as long as I like, I decided to persist. Jenna has gradually increased her stay each day and now remains until the end of the school day. I have been gradually decreasing the amount of time I am present in the classroom in an attempt to get her accustomed to being on her own. She is doing incredibly well - even telling me “I’m fine, Mom. You can go now.”
However, I am only absent for about an hour and a half at a time right now, provided her numbers are in a good range and she has eaten well prior to my departure. There is still no funding for additional assistance from a nurse to do blood sugar checks and administer insulin for snacks and there has been no education aide assigned to Jenna specifically to watch for signs of trouble. Furthermore, I have yet to do any diabetes teaching with the staff so I am not comfortable leaving Jenna for a prolonged length of time. Next week I have made arrangements to conduct teaching with several staff members. I will also be supplying an emergency kit to the classroom to perform checks and treat any lows. This should help with my peace of mind a little.
I would like to thank all you amazing, clever Moms who gave me such awesome advice and tips and pointed me in right direction for resources and support. I am so grateful to you all.