Monday, April 23, 2012

Letting Go

I love when I get opportunities to just observe. I find watching people fascinating and when it comes to diabetes, I get even more out of it.  It's amazing how diabetes can touch so many lives, yet be a unique experience for everyone.  Today, I had my endocrinologist appointment as well as an appointment with a dietician, nurse and social worker.  The team was running behind, so I got a chance to observe the waiting room.

My clinic is fairly small, so I was surprised how much I got from spending an hour in the waiting room as I was watched mothers and fathers sit with their young adult diabetic children. Without sounding like I was being completely nosey, I did realize one thing that I am sure applies to a lot of mothers and fathers or caregivers of diabetics which is when do you let go?

First off, I was surprised to see about three young adults come into the clinic because most of the time there is either no one or there are older type 2 patients. So, I instantly wanted to tell them about my blog, but I refrained hoping the message of the blog would be passed on from the nurses.   However, what I did realize was that I was the only patient there without a parent by my side.

This sounds sad, but in a way I have never thought about inviting my mother or father along with me for my appointment. In fact the only time they tagged along was when I was diagnosed and already in the hospital. Other than that I have managed my diabetes by myself, I have taken responsibility to book appointments, show up, make sure I have done what I needed to do (occasionally forgetting to do things like blood work etc.)  and that is just how it has been for the past three years.

When I came into the room, two mothers were talking about their children and honestly, it sounded like they were talking as if their children were not in the room.  It was interesting, because she did mention that her child was in his/her 20's and it was strange how her child said nothing the entire time as the other mother asked questions like, did he/she have a hard time as a teenager?  does he/she use an insulin pump?     I wanted to pull the diabetic out of his/her seat and say, "Let's just go for a walk, so your mother can talk about your diabetes..."

It seemed so strange to me, why were literally adults bringing their parents to appointments? Is this okay? Is it normal to have your parents join you? Is this something that diabetics who have had diabetes for a long time do?  Am I the only one that goes alone?   All of this was going through my mind, not too worried that the chair beside me was empty because I felt comfortable being on my own.

Now, that on its own can be answered by those that bring their parents with them to appointments - and really I get it, sometimes having a shoulder to lean on for those brutal appointments is a good way to get through them, in fact I can imagine myself in the future bringing Vince to see what it is all about; however, what I began to hear next really interested me.

As the diabetics one by one got called in, the patients looked at their parents and asked, "Do you want to come in?"  then the awkward, "Do you want me to come in?"  back and forth went on, as the parents were unsure if they should join in on them. Finally, one of the mothers decided to go in and said, "I haven't been checking up on my child, so I won't stay in the whole time..."  

The other mother decided to stay back as she proclaimed that she wanted her child to be more independent. She even refused to make the next appointment without her child's permission. She made it very clear that she was letting her daughter take the reigns of her diabetes. Was this the point that she decided to let go?

I cannot imagine how hard it is as a parent to let your diabetic child go. Let them try to figure it all out on the own without constant nagging and reassurance.  We all know the complications of diabetes, we know what high blood sugar does, what low blood sugar can do, and most of all how easy it is to neglect it.    The job of making appointments and attending them at some point needs to be passed on, and I am sure a lot of diabetics feel that desire to hold on as well.



  1. As every "child" matures differently, there will always be a variation in ages where a parent lets go. When I felt my daughter showed enough maturity, in my opinion, I asked her if she would like to go it alone. It had always been a "day out" when we went to the appointments, including lunch and shopping, so when she was ready to go it alone, it also meant giving up our mom & daughter time on those days. Now she attends her endo appointments on her own, and we save the shopping and lunch trips for our "special" times. I guess I've grown up, too.

  2. Letting go is a step-wise process for us. We offer our 9 yo son the opportunity to manage all facets of his diabetes when he chooses. There are times when we are out and he is in control of his diabetes (with his siblings as babysitters), but he offers the treatment options for our review by phone or text. There are times when he rolls over and gives us the proverbial finger for a bg check and doesn't know or care what the treatment will be, because he is just exhausted. I see our role in assisting him as role models for seeking optimum care. I would like for him to reflect that when it was our responsibility to manage his diabetes, we did everything in our power and then it will be his choice and his future family's choice when he is an adult to make his standard of care choices. Our job as his parents is to raise an independent self-motivated person but for us that does not equate to someone who cannot use a little help from loved ones when needed.

    This is a great question/post and I look forward to following all the comments. I don't have a blog profile so commenting as anonymous.... Laurie S.

  3. I feel like my kids will give me the cue about when to let them be on their own. Diabetes management is a lot of work, and I am happy to support my kids as long as they need it, because they will live with it until there is a cure. If I can help prevent burn-out, I will attend those appointments! If they ever don't want me there (as adults) I will give them that space.

  4. Letting go has been very hard for me. I have a college age son and his A1C's were excellent in middle school because I made him do everything he was supposed to do. As he got older ,in high school I slowly started letting him take more control of his diabetes and all of the responsibilities. I have watched him slowly neglect those responsibilities more and more. He tests his blood about once a day now and doesn't always bolus right away when he eats. His A1C's have slowly gotten higher. He has had several low blood sugar seizures. I witnessed one when he was home for the summer. It has actually been a nighmare for me. It breaks my heart to know that he isn't providing himself with the best care. He has gone to all his Dr appt's alone since he turned 18. He actually prefers to go by himself so that I'm not there asking questions and he can tell the Dr that he is doing everything he is supposed to do. Ugh! All I can do is pray that he doesn't do any long term damage and hope that this is just a stage he has to go through while gaining his independence.

  5. Sometimes we have no choice and have to let go, sometimes its not our choice but your child grown into an adults choice. It's not an easy thing to do but i put faith in god to watch over him every day and every night. I watched him at 16 when he was diagnosed carefully charting everything he ate and the insulin he took and allowed me to partake in helping him take care of himself. I watched him a year later at 17 as he began to mature and think about going off to college and began to hate diabetes, pushing him into a denial and pushing me away. I think part of the reason was because he didn't want me to worry about him, a big part. I watched him as he went off to college and knew what would happen in college with alcohol. I worried for 4 years and i watched him through his words. I watch him now at 25 as he is finally taking care of himself again as he is soon to be a husband. I can only hope that he continues this brave journey and will know that I am there for him, even though he won't talk about it with me, for the rest of my life, forever, i will be there for him.

  6. i go to all my appointments alone, i think my mum came to 2 of them when i was first diagnosed, but now she just drops me off and i go in myself :) ive always taken full responsibility for all appointments, blood tests and general d stuff though :)

  7. I have been a type 1 for 23 yrs. DX'ed at the age of six and I have to say I have amazing parents who need gave me anymore then I asked for because they wanted to ensure I could still be a kid. It is said that the moment a child gets diabetes there childhood innocence's is gone because we have bigger things to worry about like BG's, Insulin, foods, exercise, and a gazillion other things. When I wanted to start pricking my own fingers my parents let me and same for injections and site changes but like I said only when I asked. This was a great method to keep me from despising diabetes but instead to embrace the up's and downs. As for appt's My mom or dad went with me until I was about 17 where I would go alone. We did this for a test run on how I would handle diabetes in college away from home and still have the support I needed when I felt like my world was crashing. If it were not for some amazing parents I would have never learned to be as independent and strong as I am. My dad does occasionly go with me but usually only 1 time a yr just to ensure all is smooth, but regardless of the A1C or amount of highs and lows he does not judge. He always tells me it is okay and not a predictible disease so when the highs and lows do come (and of course we know they happen way more then one wants) I just have to remember that I can call and vent anytime I like as well as asking for help when I am struggling. Best of all I am not a number on a meter to my parents and when I need the support they are a phone call away or two hr drive depending on my needs. Blessed I am!!

  8. My parents went with me to my endo appts well into my 20's. It wasn't that I was not taking control of my diabetes and that they did everything for me but it was a comfort to have them there. I had to drive the 2.5 hours home and then another 2.5 hours to the endo I had and they drove me there and listened to what the dr had to say. It was nice to have another set of ears and if they had questions they could ask but I was in FULL control of my diabetes and had been since I was a teenager but I knew and still know my parents are completely there and supportive and want to know all about my care. It is also nice to know that they understand my treatment if anything were to happen they can help and they understand enough (and took care of me when I was younger) that I don't mind letting go and letting them stress about some things like when I got my wisdom teeth out and was so out of it coming out of anesthesia and on pain killers my mom checked my sugar and dosed me or the couple times I have gotten REALLY sick with fever and delirious I know she is there and can handle it. That being said she doesn't come to the endo with me anymore b/c I don't have to drive there anymore but if she wanted to come she is more then welcome and I also call her after every appointment to discuss everything so that she is in the loop. Also my husband does come to appointments with me and he knows how to handle my diabetes, how my pump works (I even made him learn how to do a site change) and soon how my Dexcom will work. I personally like them all being involved and it is a huge support but I am in complete control of my diabetes and I do all of the management

  9. I was diagnosed in 1965 at the age of 5. No pumps, no home glucose monitors for me. Syringe injections and urine testing for sugars. I saw my Diabetic doctor once a year, my parents went with because I couldn't drive and he was over an hour away. But whenever I saw my family doctor, who did most of my diabetic care, I saw him alone. A1C's weren't done until the middle 1980's. After two one week diabetic camp visits, at the age of 9 my parents gave total control of my diabetes over to me. I had to decide how much insulin to have depending on what my sugars were. That was too soon in my opinion. Yes I knew what I was suppose to eat and how much. I knew why I was suppose to. My parents didn't do anything to help but drive me to appointments. After I was a teen ager, I stopped seeing my diabetic doctor. I haven't seen one since.

  10. From age 8 I would go to the docs with a list of questions that Mum and I had put together before the appointment, and I asked the 'main question' and Mum asked any supplementary ones. Mum also made sure that her seat was just slightly back from mine at that the doc talked to me first. At age 11 or so, when I went from a brilliant ped's endo that had for the first time helped me get decent control, I had a "hand over appointment" with both my trusted doc, and the teens specialist. I glared at the doc ans asked "so what do YOU know about diabetes" to the new guy. The nurse had to leave the room as she got the giggles (she was standing behind me, and I was unaware of this). The doc had to go through his CV and answer questions from an opinionated pre teen, then to add to it I apparently said, "You sound ok, but if he makes me worse, can I come back to you?" to my old doc. I had a really good relationship with that doc, and from the time I was about 16 I went into the appointments myself, however Mum always came up with me, as it was a couple of hours drive each way, and they sometimes did my eye check, and of course I couldn't drive home after that.