Thoughts at the Bottom of a Beanstalk
Once upon a time there was a little boy named Jack who was about to climb his very first beanstalk. He had a fresh haircut and a brand-new book bag. Even though his friends in the neighborhood had climbed this same beanstalk almost every day last year, this was Jack's first day and he was a little nervous. So was his mother.
Early in the morning she brought him to the foot of the beanstalk. She talked encouragingly to Jack about all the fun he would have that day and how nice his giant would be. She reassured him that she would be back to pick him up at the end of day. For a moment they stood together, silently holding hands, gazing up at the beanstalk. To Jack it seemed much bigger than it had when his mother had pointed it out on the way to the store last week. His mother thought it looked big, too. She swallowed. Maybe she should have held Jack out a year...
Jack's mother straightened his shirt one last time, patted his shoulder and smiled down at him. She promised to stay and wave while he started climbing. Jack didn't say a word. He walked forward, grabbed a low-growing stem, and slowly pulled himself up to the first leaf. He balanced there for a moment and then climbed more eagerly to the second leaf, then to the third and soon he had vanished into a high tangle of leaves and stems with never a backward glance at his mother. She stood alone at the bottom of the beanstalk, gazing up at the spot where Jack had disappeared. There was no rustle, no movement, no sound to indicate that he was anywhere inside. "Sometimes," she thought, "it's harder to be the one who waves good-bye than it is to be the one who climbs the beanstalk."
She wondered how Jack would do. Would he miss her? How would he behave? Did his giant understand that little boys sometimes acted silly when they felt unsure? She fought down an urge to spring up the stalk after Jack and maybe duck behind a bean to take a peek at how he was doing. "I'd better not. What if he saw me?" She knew that Jack was really old enough to handle this on his own. She reminded herself that after all, this was thought to be an excellent beanstalk and that everyone said his giant was not only kind but had outstanding qualifications. "It's not so much that I'm worried about him," she thought, rubbing the back of her neck. "It's just that he's growing up and I'm going to miss him." Jack's mother turned to leave. "Jack's going to have lots of bigger beanstalks to climb in his life" she told herself. "Today's the day he starts practicing for them... And today's the day I start practicing something too: Cheering him on and waving good-bye."
This is a little story that I send home with my students the first day of school. I think that it's so true and so appropriate. And as I read it this year, I realized how true it is on an entirely different level.
As parents of children with diabetes, we feel the same worries as other parents. We worry about our children's safety and how they will acclimate to school. We wonder if they will behave and if they will miss us.
But we have other things to worry about, too.
We worry about mealtimes, insulin doses, if anyone knows how to treat diabetes, if our children will alert when they feel low... or high... and if anyone will listen. We worry about hypoglycemic reactions. We worry that the pump will quit working. We worry that the finger stick was not accurate due to dirty fingers. We worry about birthday treats and other times. We wonder if our children will be left out. We wonder if they feel different. We worry that they will be sent to the nurse on their own. We worry that they will start to crash and no one will recognize the symptoms. We worry that they will go low on the bus. We worry that no one really knows how to use glucagon.
We worry that no one but us takes diabetes seriously.
Yes, our worries are different.
But there still comes a time, whether it's school or diabetes management, where we will have to step back and watch as they climb the beanstalk on their own.
I often think that, at least now, it IS harder to be the one who waves goodbye than the one who climbs.
Of course, I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm glad that while Sweetpea happily skips and sings through life, I'm the one that's up at night. I'm the one worrying about diabetes and carbs and numbers. I'm the one hurting. And I wish I could take on that burden forever. Because I know that someday, she will take over.
I'm glad, that at least for now, my Sweetpea is not climbing a very tall beanstalk. I'm glad that I have a little more time....
But even now, I know, my job is to begin practicing the cheering her on and the waving goodbye.
Because no matter how hard it is for us to do it (at the least the waving part), that's our goal. To get our children to the place where they are confident and capable. Whether it's going to school, taking care of diabetes, or handling anything else life throws their way.
And knowing the toughness and tenacity of our kids, I know they are going to be just fine.