Three years ago I was forced into a life changing decision. My type 1 diabetic, 11 year old son, was ready for a “normal” overnight camp experience.
Gulp! Who will give him the same care as the diabetes camps? How can I be certain that someone will make sure his insulin and sugar needs are met?
After talking with several overnight camps I followed my motherly instincts and chose the camp that seemed best equipped. When the director asked me how independent he is with his diabetes, it was difficult for me to answer. On the one hand, I wanted to assure the director that my son was ready to be on his own but on the other hand, I wanted him to take his illness seriously. So I cautiously told him how capable my precious boy was and pleaded with he and the nurses to take good care.
So with a wing and a prayer he was off on his 4 week overnight camp experience. I stayed strong for him but behind the scenes I was the mom hitting the “refresh” button on the camp photo page and checking my email for the nurse’s updates. In the photos, I saw a smiling, happy child waterskiing for the first time, jumping high in the air for tramp ball and leading his camp friends through an intracamp tournament.
Two summers later I can look back and realize that my son’s independence could never have happened without the gift of sleep away camp. His 11 year old person was ready to cut the chord and discover who he was beyond a diabetic kid. I had been looking at him first as a blood sugar number, wondering how to take control so he could have a “normal” life. My son took control of his disease that summer and the following summer he owned it completely. I spoke with the nurses once before he left for camp and he did the rest on his own.
As a now 14 year old boy, we have reached a new “normal” in our home. When I now look at him, I first see a responsible, happy, mature person who has found a good place as a diabetic in a non-diabetic world.
Although most kids do not have type 1 diabetes, many of them are working through challenges that they can benefit from the gift of the right overnight camp. The gift is also to us parents as we watch them explore into the best they can be.