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The Beanstalk - Challenge Accepted

Thursday, August 23, 2012

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."

--Author Unknown

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.

Scarier things.

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. 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 because they don't have a nurse.  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.

And I think that's a HUGE challenge we face as parents of children with diabetes.

Even though our kids look the same on the outside, they are different.  They need extra care... extra attention.  But because they "don't look sick" we often have to work hard to get people to take this disease seriously.  To understand what it's really all about.

And so we walk the tightrope.  What a challenge THAT is!

We balance between making them feel and be as normal as possible while also making sure they are safe and healthy.  We hide our fears and our worries.  We practice the blank face when looking at the number on the meter.  We put on an image of calm.  And yet we need them to understand that taking care of themselves is imperative.

Of course, it's not only with our children that we do this - is it?

How many times have you had to pull it together?  To act like you're fine.  You're good.  You're not worried.  Not constantly checking your phone.  Not preoccupied.  How often do you cover the dark circles and pretend to listen when you're really half asleep?  So often just functioning is a pretty big challenge.

But the biggest challenge, in my opinion - at least right now, is letting go.  It's standing at the bottom of the beanstalk and waving goodbye.

Sweets is starting first grade today.  At a new school.  Not with me.  I'm not there to handle things.  She's on her own.  And I'm trying REALLY REALLY HARD to not completely freak out and lose it!

In my head, I know - it's a wonderful situation.  She's going to do great!  She's ready for the independence.  She's excited and looking forward to it.  She's got this.

But it's not so easy to wave goodbye when you're the parent of a child with diabetes.  It's all those other worries we have...

But,  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.

Knowing the toughness and tenacity of our kids, I know they are going to be just fine.

And knowing the toughness and tenacity of D-Rents, I know we are going be just fine, too!



  1. You summed up my feelings perfectly, my daughter will be starting year 1 (equivalent to 1st grade), however she will be missing the first day back as that is the day she starts pumping! She cannot wait, while I feel petrified to how her school will cope when she returns. Thank you for your wonderful blog, it really means a lot to me.

  2. And I was doing so well this I'm crying! It is so hard to let them go - even when we know they've got this!

  3. Beautiful. Thanks for the beanstalk story. So universally applicable. I hope Sweets comes home talking nonstop about how much fun she had. :)

  4. Amazing post! I hope the first day is awesome and that Sweets has an incredible school year at her new school… and that you have an awesome year too dMama! :-) dLove and dHugs!!!

  5. Great fitting. Hope Sweets has an awesome day and that the both of you settle in and have a wonderful school year. From some of the posts you've written Sweets reminds me of my 9y/o daughter who has t1. I think sometimes as dMama's we worry and maybe even under-estimate how much our amazing children actually know and are capable of. I'm sure you will find (as we have in the last few years) there will be times when she will absolutely surprise and amaze you with coping and dealing with d at school. Take comfort in the fact that she is going to a school that has other t1 kids, so a large number of staff will be familiar with d and the symptoms, believe me that makes a huge difference. :)

  6. I love it! I can't wait for you post all about her first day. With her outlook on life and positive attitude she couldn't have a bad day. Letting go I know was extremely hard, but I am glad you did. ((HUGS))

  7. UGH, Reading this at work and had to fight back the tears. It surprises me how much I relate to D parents even though I am not a D PARENT. I guess it's because my hubby has lost so much of his independence that I feel like I am looking after a child in some sort of way. But regardless, I hear you. It's scary. And yes, it is hard to get people to understand invisible diseases. I am sure she did great!!! :)

  8. Yeah, 'cause I needed something else to make the tears flow today! ;)

    Love it, truly. Amazingly well said!!


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