I started this post back in August when Nate started kindergarten. I didn't really get further than the title and some brief research on hostage negotiations. Why hostage negotiations? Well, during the entire first 6 weeks Nate struggled with school, with bg checks at school, had major meltdowns and started crying every morning before we even left the house for school. I'm not sure I can adequately describe how completely awful it was.
I wanted to do the right thing for him, for me and for his teachers. I asked for advice here and on FB and received so much conflicting advice that it was completely overwhelming. Should I stay with him at school? Just go up there when it is time to check his bg? Just go up when it is time to bolus? Not go up at all and make him be a the big boy I know he can be?
I felt like if I did or said the wrong thing this could impact him and the way he feels about school and diabetes for the rest of his life.
I did actually google hostage negotiations because I felt like those people have to make split second decisions that obviously impact people for the rest of their lives.
A little dramatic? Meh . . . maybe but I felt completely overwhelmed by Nate's behavior and really didn't want to damage him for the rest of his life (more so that I probably already have!).
The one thing that stuck in my head from a FB friend and person with diabetes (PWD) was that some things are negotiable and some things are not. Checking your bg is non-negotiable. Going to school is non-negotiable. That's where I started. I told Nate those 2 things and tried to help him by going to the school to check his bg and bolus for lunch. That didn't work. Nate had so many things going on in his little kindergarten noodle . . .
Separation anxiety, diabetes anxiety, the fear of having someone he didn't know checking his bg, fear of someone besides me giving him insulin, a new school, a long day, new friends, so many unknown that were made worse by fluctuating blood sugar levels because I had no idea where to start with school basals!
When Shay wrote the following statement to me, I don't think any of us knew just how accurate it would be:
Monday, Nate starts kindergarten and everything will NOT be all right. It will be a stressful, fucked up, bloody nightmare. Literally - there will be blood. There will be tears; yours and his and possibly innocent bystander's. There will be panic attacks, yelling, second guesses, sleeplessness (more so than usual), and Tommy Lee Jones may be there to announce, "we have a runner; search every out house, farm house, and locker." If, by chance, Nate makes it to his class, you may get the call that he has taught everyone a few new choice words like - oh I don't know - holy shitballs, for instance.
Nate literally would run out of class, he would kick and scream, he would cry, he clung so tightly to me that I could not get him off of me. At one point, I had gone to the school to help with his lunch bolus and he threw such a crazy fit that I had to run and hide in the office from him and watch 2 teachers, the vice principal and school counselor carry him down the hall kicking and screaming. I looked at that child with a blank stare, as teared were rolling down my face, I literally did not know who that boy was at that moment. That is not the way Nate behaves and I had no idea what to do. I told the staff that his bg levels were at a safe range and to please treat him the same as they would any other student that was behaving that way. So, they did. I got a call about 15 minutes later from the VP to let me know that he had calmed down and he wanted her to send me a picture of him playing with play doh and behaving. What a relief that was for me.
Isn't he freaking adorable? He's so stinking cute, he's my only boy and he's my baby. I couldn't help it --- all of this school drama broke my heart. I cried a lot. I cried when he cried, I cried when he didn't cry and I cried because I just didn't want him to cry anymore!! Sweet, sweet boy!!
We tried a lot of different things throughout the first 6 weeks to get him comfortable and happy at school. What worked for us may or may not work for you, you may think I am the worst mom ever or the best one on the planet . . . . your life, your kid, and your diabetes may vary!
- Nate had to check his sugar. That was not negotiable. He made the choice to do it himself and not let the nurse do it. That worked for me and it worked for him. I think it gave him a little bit of control that he needed to feel more comfortable with all of the changes going on.
- If he threw a tantrum and refused to go into class (sometimes this could take up to 10 minutes) then he would lose privileges. If he couldn't act like a big boy and make big boy choices then he would lose his big boy privileges. He lost his iPad a few times and he thought that was the end of the world!
- Ian started taking him to school. Part of the problem was separation anxiety from me so he seemed to do a little bit better each day when Ian took him. He still cried and had to be reminded to make big boy choices but this was the beginning of big changes for Nate.
- We did a lot of positive reinforcement. If/when he made the choice to go into class and make good choices he was rewarded by us and by his teacher. There were days that he refused to take his backpack off all day. Gradually it started coming off earlier and earlier and he was rewarded for his good choice. He now goes into class, removes his backpack and starts the day with a smile!!
- His teacher is amazing! She is so patient! She also kept the communication with us open with daily emails, text messages and morning updates when Ian dropped Nate off. She was a huge part of him getting over this hump!
Nate actually loves school now although he won't admit it. When I am there he hardly acknowledges me and will certainly not give me any hugs or kisses. He's made new friends and really seems to enjoy learning!
This was certainly one of the harder things we've had to deal with since his diagnosis and I did at times think things would NEVER get better but they did. They always do.
Tough times don't last . . . tough people do!!
Nate is one tough little dude!