Summer Vacation and Shared Parenting

shared parentingIn June of 2011, I was stressing out. My son was finishing up the school year and preparing to head away for a few weeks with his father.  His care was notoriously lacking when he went away.  I was stressed to the max.His insulin needs were less and less. Despite my best efforts at reducing carb to insulin ratios and turning down basal rates, he was still going low.  I wasn’t sure how I would handle it.

You can read all about it here

But guess what? We survived. He did and I did.  He was 13.  The burden of care fell 80% to himself.  His father and brother helped out with site changes.  His father did some of the night-testing.  I worried and learned to live without diabetes for a few weeks but we survived!

Here are a few things that helped deal with shared parenting a child with diabetes.

Two types of calls

We had two types of conversations. “How are you? Are you having fun?”, was the first call. This was the start of all conversations.  Diabetes could not take a front seat unless there was an emergency.  He had to be a child first.

At a set time, however, was the second type of call.  This was a diabetes conversation.  This involved having a meter out,  sharing readings, what he was doing and why a high or low could have occurred. These were strategy sessions…and much shorter than a regular call.  My son didn’t want to be bothered by mom’s nagging or diabetes but he also knew that it had to be done. My concession was to make it short.  I gathered data quickly and offer suggestions.

Seven years later, parents can now get real-time data through sharing apps on the Dexcom and there are even a few hacked Libre sharing programs that can be used.  This can definitely help to ease a parent’s mind but remember not to become obsessed by the numbers. This leads us to another thing that can be hard to remember.

Different doesn’t mean bad

I think that this can be the greatest challenge when joint parenting a child with diabetes.  Whether you are divorced, separated or living in the same household, often there can be different opinions on diabetes care.  A reading that you feel is high and needs immediate attention may a number that someone else is okay with because they know that there is a very active afternoon planned.

Try not to freak out every time the other person does it differently.  Different means just that…not the same way you would handle it.  The biggest rule is “does different endanger the life of your child?” If not then bite your tongue, let your child enjoy their time with the other parent and say a quiet prayer of gratitude when your child comes home healthy and happy.

Adjust basals accordingly

When my son would spend time with his father, he would spend most of his time on the go.  He would be catching up with old friends. He would be on quad or spending the day at the beach. There would be late nights and later mornings.

Before he would go away, I would make small tweaks to his basal rate to allow for an increase in daily activity and a decrease in morning activity. I allowed him to run a little higher than I would if he was with me because I also knew that he wouldn’t test or correct as often as he would if Mom was there to ask “did you check lately?”

Take some time for you

As much as you will stress and worry, this is your time off.  Diabetes has left the building.  Allow yourself to rest and regroup.  Spend some time with yourself.  Enjoy restful nights.  Read a book.  Go out with friends.  Do anything that makes you truly happy because no matter how you feel about the child’s other parent…that parent loves your child as well.  They will do their best to take care of your child and leave he/she with great summer memories so make some awesome memories of your own.

When you are reunited with your child, you will both be ready and recharged for all that diabetes throws at you!

 

A New Chapter

This is a post I have put off writing.  My life has taken a new turn. I have not been sure how much I would share and let alone where to start, where to end and how to collect my thoughts and feelings into something sensible. I still don’t.

At the end of August my world seemed to shatter.  It didn’t of course, it simply changed courses at a time when I was least expecting it. My youngest son broke the news to me that since he was about to turn 16, he felt that he was old enough to choose where to live and he wanted to exercise his right to make that choice. I have been divorced from my children’s father for a number of years and we now live hundreds of miles apart. My son wanted to go home.  He wanted to move nine hours away to live with his father and be near his life-long friends.

To say that I was hurt and upset would be an understatement. I came up with all of the reasons that this was a bad idea. He gave me all of the reasons that it wasn’t.

He said that he only had two more years and he could move out on his own anyway. I countered that these last two years were vital for me to help him, guide him and teach him how to handle his own care. This was to be our transition years. He countered that transitioning for two years while living with his father was an even better way to learn.  He does the bulk of his own care when he is with his father but if he got into trouble, Dad would still be a bit of a safety net. We continued to go back and forth on other issues like school, responsibility and learning to drive.

I told him that I would not allow it. I would not put his health or his education in jeopardy. I was hurt. I was upset. I cried more tears than I had in a long time. I contacted my lawyer. I reached out to friends and family.  I was soon reminded that this was not about me.  No matter how much I felt like a failure, my son was not moving because I was a terrible parent.  He was moving because he wanted the chance to be an adult. Saying no was saying no to my son and no one else. It would put a terrible strain on our relationship and serve no purpose that he would see. They were right so I cried some more and got to work.

I contacted my pump rep and got my son a new, in warranty insulin pump.  I contact our diabetes clinic and asked for his file to be moved back to our old doctor.  I bought school supplies, picked up new shoes and clothes and filled his prescriptions. I stayed up every hour that I could to spend it with him. I teased him a little about the things that he would miss out on  like bonding with our goldfish, fighting the dog for space on his bed, and lighting every candle in the house each evening. I told him that he could change his mind and stay. It wasn’t too late. He would laugh and say no.

His birthday would happen after he moved. We had an early birthday dinner.  We had an early cake. I gave him his presents early.  Inside of his card I gave him a list of things to remember, the first of course being how much I loved him, how proud I was of him, and that no matter what I knew that he was capable of caring for himself. He read my note. He smiled and put it away for later. The next day his father arrived, we loaded his belongings, I held him tight, we both cried (him a little, me a lot) and off he went.

As a stipulation of going, we arranged to discuss his readings every week. He was to upload his pump to the Diasend website and I would go in and see what was happening. This was one of the reasons for switching pumps–I could see boluses and blood tests from nine hours away. He also said that he would gladly Skype at 10pm when he had an assignment due the next day so that he could get my input. I really appreciated that –not, but reminded him that as I did with his brother, I would be in touch with the school and would be apprised of his marks and his progress.

Some people have asked what the big deal was? He was going to leave at one point anyway. I have to learn to let go. The big deal was one week to prepare myself when I thought I had two years…or more if he went on to trade school here. The big deal was he had not shown in the past an ability to take care of himself when away from me. It was as if I carried diabetes in my purse. If I wasn’t with him, he didn’t have diabetes and therefore did not need to test or do any of his care. I was scared of so many unknowns.

As a mother, I want to be there to protect my children–both of them.  I don’t want them hurt. Its my job to protect them. In the case of my youngest, that includes keeping him healthy and alive.  Now that I have had to hand his body over to him sooner, I feel like I have not completely done my job.  As I told him I know that he can do this. He has the knowledge and the ability but the desire is often lacking. Hopefully this experience will change that.  Perhaps now he will have that desire. Thankfully I have wonderful friends who continue to guide me and keep my expectations in check.

They have also helped me to find my way into this new chapter of my life as an empty-nester. Amongst many notes of support, a wise friend wrote…” A spectacularly difficult time for you Barb. But you have done everything you can to set him up for success. Now it’s up to him. Probably the hardest thing for all parents: letting go. Sending much love your way. You going through this will give you the experience to help other parents, whenever the time comes for them.”

So as Sandy wisely told me, I begin this new chapter in my life and in the life of Diabetes Advocacy–sharing with you the joys, fears, and realizations of parenting a young adult with diabetes from afar. It won’t be easy but parenting is never easy. Parenting a toddler, a pre-teen, a teen or a young adult with diabetes is even harder but we make it through with love, support and amazing family and friends.

letting go