Just My Type: Summer Camp with Type 1 Diabetes

Camped Out in the Parking Lot

My husband and I spent the last two weeks sitting in our cars for six hours a day. That’s right, just sitting. Not driving. Sitting. In the parking lot of Lenox Memorial Middle-High School while my daughter, Noelle, was at Shakespeare & Company’s Riotous Youth summer theater camp.

Yes, it was as exciting as it sounds.

As I have mentioned in previous columns, Noelle’s type 1 diabetes presents an extra challenge in the summer: whether or not to let her go to any camps. After all, many camp facilities don’t employ full-time nurses who could help Noelle manage the disease, and even if they did, the learning curve on managing Noelle and her specific needs and brand of insulin pump, etc., would take more time than the week or two of camp. So what’s a parent to do?…

In our case, what we did was rearrange our schedules, and our lives, to sit outside the camp for six hours a day.

When we agreed to let her do Riotous Youth, it didn’t seem like it would be so bad. We envisioned days lounging around the lovely Shakespeare & Company campus, complete with a cafe, picnic tables and wireless internet. Unfortunately for us, the camp ended up being held at the school instead: no cafe (and nothing nearby), a couple of old tables (in the sun) and, worst of all, no accessible wireless!

Still, we forged on with the plan, armed Noelle with her prepaid cell phone and strict instructions, and hoped for the best.

I was on duty day one. While I scheduled some vacation time from my job with the Girl Scouts to coincide with camp, this day I was still officially “on the clock.” I arranged to have a meeting with a volunteer in the morning; my plan was to sit outside with her. Of course, it rained, so we ended up sitting inside the lobby of the school’s theater, where the camp was being held. That was not ideal; it’s bad enough that I have to follow Noelle everywhere she goes, but I try to be as inconspicuous as possible. The child needs her independence, not seeing Mom every time she turns around. That afternoon I sat in the car organizing my work bag and files, everything I could possibly do without internet, leaving the campus for half an hour once to drive into town to use the wireless at the SoCo Creamery shop.

Stephen took days two and three so that I could actually work before my official vacation time started. He was smart enough to throw a bag chair in his trunk and bring a couple books so he could sit under a tree and read. Day four was the Fourth of July and camp was held at Shakespeare & Company, which was delightful, and we both brought her down that day. We were able to sit in the air-conditioned lobby and I played Words With Friends to my heart’s content with their wireless connection. They have a big barbecue on the holiday and we were able to get a nice lunch, too.

Stephen took Friday and Monday, and Tuesday and Wednesday saw me back in the high school parking lot. It was hot and muggy, and I decided it was OK to park (probably) illegally right next to the school under the one tree in the parking lot instead of roasting in the open sun. I rolled down all of the windows, leaned back in the seat, stuck my bare feet out the window, and read a book and played Cribbage on my iPad as entertainment. Tuesday I didn’t leave the lot all day; Wednesday I had to drive into Stockbridge for a quick meeting with a volunteer; even though I was on vacation, it gave me a nice break and I didn’t mind. After taking care of Noelle’s lunch insulin bolus, I met the volunteer at the Red Lion Inn and I spent 15 minutes rocking on the front porch using the hotel’s wireless, then back down to Lenox… my cell phone sitting beside me the whole time, just in case.

Two days in a row in the parking lot had left me spent, though, so Stephen took her Thursday, and we both went on Friday, the final day of camp and the day the kids performed the scenes from “Twelfth Night” they had been working on for the last two weeks.

So how did the two weeks go, diabetes-wise? Twice Noelle had blood sugar lows that prompted action from us. Once her insulin pump alarm went off. We had to bolus her every day for lunch and contend with an continued insistence that she was “not hungry” when she knows she needs to eat something. It was a challenge, as is everything about diabetes. But watching her work to memorize difficult Shakespearean dialogue and enjoy her moments on stage made it worth it in the end.

We all do things for our kids we never thought in a million years we would do. Mine just happened to be camping out in a parking lot for six hours a day.


Rebecca Dravis

Pittsfield native Rebecca Dravis is a former journalist who lives in north Berkshire County with her husband and daughter in Williamstown, MA. In Just My Type Rebecca shares her experiences as a parent raising a child with type one diabetes. – Check out Just My Type on the third Monday of every month.

One Comment on “Just My Type: Summer Camp with Type 1 Diabetes

  1. Hi Rebecca,
    This is Elena, Vini’s mom. We met at that JDRF thing in the rain. Please send me your email, etc again, as I got a new phone and can not find your info, and we’d love to get together with you guys. Will be back home in a couple of days, for a couple of weeks. I can completely relate to this, having spent an entire week sitting in a moldy airless 7′ X 8′ cubicle while Vin attended her Kung Fu camp! Maybe we can swap “war stories” and commiserate (and hopefully laugh about it all a bit!)… Hang in there… You are an amazing mom. Take it from one who knows EXACTLY what you go through! Please do be in touch.
    Elena Allee

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