I am interrupting Health Activist Writers Month Challenge to say that some people just don’t understand and some people are just assholes.
My daughter was invited to a birthday celebration for a friend that’s turning 13. It will be a great celebration that involves a limo taking the birthday girl, her friends and her family into San Francisco (about an hour from where we live – across the bay). Those in attendance will eat at a fun restaurant and hang out at the Pier before returning to our area for a sleep over.
The friend that is turning 13 is one that my daughter adores and considers one of her closest here in CA. I wouldn’t dream of telling her she can’t attend. Although even if it weren’t for diabetes the event makes me a bit nervous. It is a long drive to the city, there is a huge body of water between the city and our home. I’ve only met the mom of the birthday girl twice and both times were very short meetings with little personal information exchanged. Thus – I don’t know this family at all. We have had the birthday child over to hang out and I like her very much. She is sweet, kind, humble and fun. One would think her mom would be like this as well. Not so much – but I’ll get to that.
Having a child with diabetes is just like having a child without diabetes – except when it isn’t.
I want my kids to enjoy time with friends and there is a certain level of trust I need to have when allowing my child to hang out with another family. Do they have guns in the house, and if so are they put up properly? What other adults or older teenagers will be around my child? If my child will be riding in a vehicle with the other family/parent is that parent a safe driver, and not taking medications that could affect his/her driving? Will the adults in charge of my child be consuming alcohol? Is there a pool at the home of the other family? I think these are fair questions to ask when my kids go to someone else’s home. I worry about parents that don’t ask me the same questions the first time I am in charge of their child. Most parents appreciate my candor and feel the same.
Now lets add in the diabetes. Are you familiar with diabetes? My child can eat whatever they want but will need to take insulin for their food. My child will need to test their blood sugar at various times and have access to their testing supplies. If my child will be overly active (swimming/theme park) my child will need to test more often, have access to snacks and stay hydrated. Oh and there is a small – tiny really – chance my child could experience a severe low blood sugar and may be unable to articulate this so you might have to stick her with an emergency syringe if she is having a seizure or becomes unconscious – it will keep her alive until emergency folks can get to her – you do know how to dial 911 right? (I don’t actually ask if the parent knows how to dial 911 I tell them to dial 911 after the shot and before calling me)
As a parent of children with diabetes I struggle with how much information to share and how to share it.
- Do I tell them the worst case scenario and then reassure them that everything will be fine?
- Do I play it all nonchalant and hope all is fine?
- Do I spend an hour educating them calmly?
So this is how the phone call went down when I was finally able to talk to the mom: I paraphrased most of it – it was a much longer call. It also involved a good deal of other snide remarks (not me) and frustration. I included my inner thoughts in italics for your enjoyment.
Me: Hi T – thanks for calling. I hope you’ve had a good week. Sorry we’ve not been able to chat before now. I wanted to find out a few details about J’s party and take a bit of time discussing my daughters diabetes.
T: Ok what it is you need to know? I’m sorry did I say something wrong – a bit abrupt aren’t we?
Me: Well I’m not sure what the party line up is. I briefly saw the invitation and noticed that it gave clues about a trip into San Fran. San Fran is a bit away from the house and I’m unsure how much you know about diabetes in case of an emergency so I thought I’d touch base.
T: We are taking the girls to dinner and activities on the Pier. I don’t know about diabetes – is it a problem? It’s not a problem as long as you know about it and ensure me you understand.
Me: No but I do need to be sure that someone is aware of possible emergencies that could come up and is comfortable with providing care or if not I could make myself available, maybe follow the party and just be in the general area.
T: This is my daughters 13th birthday. I don’t know you and it would be uncomfortable having you there – it’s a family thing – we didn’t plan for others. It’s a family thing but you want to take 6 other girls into a huge metropolitan area and not want the other parents to be concerned at all?
Me: I’m not inviting myself to the celebration just saying I could be in the area.
T: That’s just weird. Whats weird is your lack of tact and complete disregard for the safety of my daughter.
Me: I understand that and to be honest it would likely embarrass my daughter if I was the only other parent there and she already has to deal with so much regarding diabetes I don’t want to make her uncomfortable. So maybe you and I can meet just for a bit and I can show you the emergency kit that can be used if needed.
T: I have a daughter with severe peanut allergies I know what an epi pen is. Oh well I’m sorry your daughter has peanut allergies that scares the crap out of me BUT diabetes and peanut allergies are not the same.
Me: Ok well the emergency glucagon kit is similar to an epi pen with a couple extra steps.
T: You are calling me a two days before the party with this. No I called you daily and sent texts to your phone and you didn’t respond.
Me: Right, I know, I had been trying to reach you the last week but hadn’t had any luck.
T: My phone is broke. Oh – well that explains a little – although I’m guessing talking to me wouldn’t have been a priority regardless.
Me: Right, sorry.
T: What is it you want exactly – I don’t know what you expect me to say. I thought I was clear – let me show you the emergency kit, reassure me you got this.
Me: Well I’m just trying to gauge how comfortable you are with providing emergency care.
T: My youngest daughter is only 7 and she takes care of herself – maybe you need to give your daughter some space and let her spread her wings. Fuck You.
Me: Right, Um my daughter is very independent with her diabetes care. She manages all her blood sugar checks daily, counts carbohydrates, doses insulin and does a wonderful job of it. Unfortunately the same medicine she takes to stay alive can kill her. If her blood sugars get too low she could be unable to articulate it and would need someone to help her, possibly give her the emergency shot. This has never happened, I don’t think it would happen at the party but I need to be sure someone is willing to be responsible for her.
T: This is a lot and I want to focus on my daughter, its her 13th birthday. I don’t want to say your daughter can’t come. My daughter would be devastated. I don’t know what to say. How about – wow diabetes must be difficult. Your daughter means a lot to my daughter and its HER birthday, not mine so of course we will take good care of her. I can’t imagine how scary things like this must be for you and your family.
Me: I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable and I certainly don’t want to ruin your daughter’s birthday for you or her. My daughter would not easily forgive me if I didn’t allow her to attend. She is already upset I wont let her spend the night.
T: So now she isn’t spending the night either? No of course I will want to leave her in your care overnight – you are so loving and kind and supportive.
Me: No she knows we aren’t comfortable asking parents we don’t know to check blood sugars in the middle of the night and know what to do with those numbers so we pick her up around midnight from sleep overs. She knows this and understands even if she isn’t happy about it. It is different here in CA we don’t know any of her friends parents well enough yet to ask them to take on the additional responsibility. Most nights my daughter is fine but there are nights, especially after an exciting day packed with lots of activity and fun food that her numbers would be very wacky and could become dangerous.
T: I could set an alarm but can’t promise to get up to check. Oh well that makes it all better.
Me: I appreciate the offer but her dad and I just feel better picking her up by midnight.
T: Well you need to send her sleeping bag anyway. My daughter will be very disappointed if she can’t stay. What part of NO did you not understand? I’m sure your daughter gets it even if you don’t. I can’t even get you to say you will take care of her in SF. Have you taken your anti-bitch drugs yet today?
Me: Well getting back to the trip into the city – maybe talk to your husband and see if he has any ideas on how to keep my daughter safe. I’ll talk to mine and I’m sure it will work out.
T: I still don’t know what you expect. I think you need to let her have more independence. Fuck you. (I almost said it out loud that time)
Me: Maybe just consider if you were in our shoes and think of what you would want and what would make you most comfortable, maybe you will have an idea I haven’t yet thought of.
T: I’m a grown adult. I’m intelligent, I don’t need to play pretend. I am a ‘say what I think’ kind of person and either people like me or they don’t and those that like me – love me. So you’re saying you have no friends because right now I am having a hard time imagining anyone liking you.
Me: We haven’t had the opportunity to get to know each other and I know this all may be overwhelming and not what you needed to discuss so close to the party. I trust my daughter to make good decisions and I know she takes excellent care of herself. I don’t know you and this phone call was merely me trying to ensure her safety if she runs into trouble. I know it is a responsibility you hadn’t anticipated and may not welcome but I assure you all will be fine and like I said I can be in the area, not with the party, in case she runs into trouble so the responsibility will not lie entirely on you.
T: I need to talk to my husband. I may not get back with you until tomorrow. Oh joy I get to talk to you again.
Me: Ok just give me a call. I will be around tonight and tomorrow.
I didn’t wait for the mom to call me. I spoke to Chad and he agreed that we could send Sweetstuff to the party but we (chad, me and the boys) would be in the city enjoying the pier on our own. I called her and told her this. She said she talked to her husband and they would set alarms to ensure Sweetstuff checked and texted me. I told her the alarms were unnecessary, that our daughter knows what to do and knows to keep me updated but I thanked her anyway. I told her I would need to show her the emergency kit when I drop my daughter off for the party. She agreed that would be fine (FINE – “Id be like yes please do – I want to be sure to keep your daughter safe”- whatever).
My friend Amy suggested that I encourage my daughter to show her friends the glucagon so they know about it. I agree that’s smart since my daughter spends so much time with her friends and if there is an emergency it will likely be her friends that help her not an adult.
Before the second call ended the mom insisted again I send a sleeping bag and also that I really need to give my daughter more space to grow. (When I pick my daughter up I might take a raw fish and put it in her air vent).
I don’t know if this read as awful as it was to actually have this conversation. I maintained a calm friendly tone throughout the conversation even though I wanted to scream at this mom for suggesting I don’t give my daughter independence or that peanut allergies are the same thing. During the conversation she was curt and condescending.
Conversations like the one above baffle me. Truly baffle me. Also – I use the word “Right” to buy time when I don’t want to say something I’m actually thinking.