It’s been a tough week. Diabetes sleepaway camp starts today.
The Bear went to Diabetes sleepaway camp for the first time last year. Something I’ve been looking forward to since she was diagnosed at age 3. A chance to be “normal” for a whole week – surrounded by other campers, counselors who all live with T1. A chance to not be the only kid at camp pausing to check a blood sugar or waiting to eat until carbs are counted and insulin is dosed? Sign her up. Not to mention a week for me of only taking care of one person’s T1 (my own) instead of two. And a week of time with the BHE with no kid around? Sign me up.
Last year we went to the camp open house just to give the Bear a look at it and she left there psyched for camp. We dropped her off in August, saw pics in the parent portal (all smiles!!), and picked up our tired but happy camper having to pry her away from friends in her cabin. She talked non-stop in the car on the way home – at least until she fell asleep. She said she missed us a little, but was much more excited about the care package she had gotten and was already looking forward to writing letters to one particular friend. There was a disappointment over not being able to swim one day when she had ketones, but overall, it seemed like it had been a fun week. And, after getting home, the Bear agreed to try a new site location for her pump for the first time ever (amazing what some peer observation can do!!). [See previous blog post for more: All Hail D Camp]
A few months later, after family diabetes camp weekend and making plans with another family to sign up for the same week of summer camp for our two girls, the Bear started to talk about her camp experience differently. She never slept while she was there, she missed us terribly, she didn’t get to swim, she hated the swimming test, no part of it was any fun, and she hated it. She did not want to go back in 2017. Lots of parental reminders about the specific things she had said were fun, that everyone feels homesick, that the other family specifically signed their daughter up (for her first camp experience) because the Bear was going to be there, that we tend to remember the negatives once we are out of the situation…
The present, today. After a week of tears, refusing to go to camp at all, “why do I have to,” and long diatribes about all the horrible things about camp (competitive games, not enough swimming, swimming test, not being able to sleep, missing us, not doing well enough on the swimming test, the week feeling like 20 years…), today is the day. We packed up yesterday and did our best to listen, console, encourage, and help her at least be resigned to going. Not really what I was looking forward to for so many years.
I have packed envelopes with surprises inside to be opened on the first few days of camp — filled with little notebooks, gum, colored pencils, joke books, pictures of the dog and us and a picture of her and the friend who will be at camp with her, Pokemon cards, etc. I have funny cards all set to be mailed daily so she’ll get mail the remainder of the week. We have put together some notes for her counselors (OMG, I’m one of those parents) about what she has been feeling negative about so that they can be prepared for the speedbumps they’ll need to help her over – including her dislike of competitive situations (which isn’t just related to this camp – it crops up at other local day camps and school as well).
And, in the months leading up to this, in response to all of the conversations about “why are you making me go?” “why don’t I have a choice?”, we told her she had to try camp again this year but if she still doesn’t want to go back, she won’t have to. I’m pretty sure that no matter if she has fun this year or not, she has her mind made up to say that she won’t go back and we’ll honor our promise not to make her.
I LOVED summer/sleepaway camp. I didn’t have T1 then, so I never went to Diabetes camp, but it seems like other than the blood sugar testing & insulin dosing, the activities were pretty similar. I would have gone to camp for the full 8 weeks of summer if I could have. I’m sad that hasn’t been the Bear’s experience. I’m also sad for the BHE & myself that this could be the last summer we’ll get this kid-free week. We have never had family who could help with childcare – T1 or not – so have never had that opportunity to drop the Bear off at Grandma’s house for the weekend or for a couple’s vacation. Diabetes camp (even though not a complete break from diabetes for us since I’m a T1) seemed like such a perfect win-win for all of us. If only she liked it.
Maybe at some point she’ll want to go to a different sleepaway camp, which would be awesome. But, I’ve also talked to other D-parents about helping a non-D-camp manage Diabetes, and it isn’t the same kind of break. Still, I’ll hope that this hasn’t soured her on the entire idea of going away to camp. We’ll keep our eyes open for a themed camp that is focused more on activities she enjoys (art, theater, music) and less on the traditional summer camp experience (outdoor games, woodsy skills/experiences).
And, maybe I can find a Diabetes sleepaway camp that takes adults… sign me up!