Just My Type: Marshmallow Heart

Safe and Sound

Every day when I send Noelle off to school, I am putting her life in the hands of people who are virtual strangers.

“I don’t ever want to talk to you again!”

My daughter, Noelle, uttered these words as she flew out the front door to wait for the school bus. She was angry because she and I had just tussled over her use of her new iPad Mini before school, and this was her parting shot to me.

Tears sprang to my eyes as I watched her board the bus. Logically, I know kids say these kinds of things to their parents all the time when they are angry and full of youthful drama. But on a purely emotional level, I was devastated, and it didn’t take much soul-searching to realize why.  Every day when I send Noelle off to school, I am putting her life in the hands of people who are virtual strangers. The people who work at her school are, without a doubt, kind, well-meaning and professional, but they are effectively strangers…

Yes, I know that the job of every teacher and other staffer at school is to keep the kids safe. We all saw that first-hand in a tragic way a year ago with the Newtown school shooting, where school workers who risked – and lost, in some cases – their lives to save their young charges. And I know that every person at Noelle’s school would do the same.

But I’m not worried about school shootings. Every day when I send Noelle to school, I worry that her blood sugar will go too low and she will pass out. Or it will go to high and she will go into diabetic ketoacidosis. Or she will get an injury or throw up, two things that will cause severe problems with her latest health issue of Addison’s disease.

Type 1 diabetes in kids requires constant monitoring and superhuman diligence. Noelle doesn’t go more than a few hours, tops, between finger sticks, even at night – especially at night. But when I send her to school for eight hours, I am depending on people who doesn’t love her the way I do to be as vigilant as I am about keeping her safe and healthy – and alive.

So when Noelle’s last words to me as she leaves to school are so angry and hateful, anxiety washes over me. What if today is the day her teacher, as wonderful as she is, misses the signs of a severe low blood sugar and that’s the last thing Noelle said to me?

I stewed about it all morning. I did not want to be lenient about the actual issue, which was her use of the iPad she got for her birthday before she was completely ready for school, one of the rules we have set. But I did not like that I lost my temper and that she left with such anger in her heart.

I made a quick trip to the supermarket, where I purchased a small marshmallow heart. I took it to her school, intending to surprise her with it by meeting her in the nurse’s office for her pre-lunch blood glucose test.

I walked into the nurse’s office and the first thing I saw were Noelle’s boots on the end of the bed. My heart skipped a beat and I rushed over to her, wondering if my anxiety had been based on some primal gut feeling that something was wrong with my kid and wasn’t just sleep-deprived, stressed-out neurosis. She looked up at me in surprise and smiled, happy to see me, the drama of four hours ago apparently forgotten. She said she wasn’t feeling well, but in reality she has having a good time playing with the other little girl with diabetes, who was also in the nurse’s office waiting for her blood sugar to come up from a low.

I showed her the treat I bought her and gave her a big hug, saying I was sorry for the morning’s fight and that we would talk calmly about the iPad after school. She hugged me back, and I said I thought she looked well enough to go have lunch. She and the other girl got their lunch insulin doses and skipped off to lunch together, Noelle clutching her marshmallow heart.

I watched her go. That’s all we really can do.


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.

[Photo credit: (cc) Barbara Piancastelli]

One Comment on “Just My Type: Marshmallow Heart

  1. I love reading your articles and this one really touched me. My 11 yr-old daughter has an epi-pen for food allergies and while it is not the same as diabetes, I can identify with the anxieties that pop up unexpectedly when parenting a child with health issues. Thank you.

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