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Guest Post: Firsts.

I'm off figuring out how to change diapers and all that fun stuff, but while I'm out, I've had some very generous offers to guest post in my absence.  Today's post is from Sherry Roberts, who writes the diabetes blog Jenna's Pet Monkey, where she talks about her life with her two daughters, one with type 1 diabetes.

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Sherry Roberts and her daughters

As parents our aim is to teach our children how to be independent of us.  It is a painstaking, bittersweet process spanning many years and encompassing countless achievements along the way—the first time a baby reaches for a toy, holds a spoon or takes a first step.   The first time a child sleeps over at a friend’s house, rides a two-wheeler, drives a car—each first represents a step closer to the goal of independence and is celebrated accordingly.  Having a child with Type 1 Diabetes adds considerably more to this list of firsts.

My daughter, Jenna, will be four years old in a few weeks and her two year diagnosis anniversary will follow nine weeks after that.  I haven’t pushed her to learn to perform any of the routine tasks related to the management of her diabetes.  She’s still quite young and lacking in some fine motor skills to accomplish the tasks involved with ease.  It takes a steady hand to zero-in on that bead of blood with a test strip then allow enough time for the strip to slurp it up until an adequate sample is obtained.  Besides, she faces a lifetime performing the never-ending, daily litany of blood sugar checks, boluses, site changes and corrections.  There’s no hurry.  Like other aspects of raising a child this will be a process requiring time, patience and a relaxed, supportive approach—the pace of which will be set by Jenna and her cues signaling readiness.

Last year on a few occasions, I tested the waters and offered Jenna the opportunity to do her own blood sugar check.  Each time she refused I would do the check myself without further discussion.  Then one day during a family camping trip I offered her the lancing device expecting her to refuse as usual.  This time, however, she surprised me when she quickly took it from my hand with such confidence—more than she was prepared to commit to.  Jenna’s expression when she pressed the device to her finger and triggered the lancet was that of shock, bordering on panic.   It was then that I knew she hadn’t really intended to perform her own check.    But when she saw the drop of blood and realized what she had done her panicked expression changed to one of proud amazement, like when a child snaps her fingers for the first time or blows her first chewing gum bubble.  

We congratulated her on this achievement being careful not to overdo it.  Jenna isn’t one for a lot of fanfare.  She is uncomfortable in the spotlight and becomes annoyed by too much ado, perhaps feeling patronized.  I thought this would signify a turning point whereby Jenna would feel empowered and take more of an active role in her diabetes management.  But this was an isolated event.  Jenna refused to do any more checks after that.

Then one day this past January, five months after the unintentional lancing incident, Jenna was just about to enjoy a mid-morning snack.  She had washed her hands and was pulling out the kitchen stool to sit and enjoy her cheese, crackers and half an apple.  I asked her to get the checker ready which entails getting a strip out (she has finally mastered uncapping the container without flinging strips everywhere, for which I am truly grateful) and inserting it into the meter.  Jenna said “Sure Mom. “ After a brief moment she said something I wasn’t expecting; “...actually, I’ll do my own check today.”  Then without hesitation she proceeded to do just that, as if she had done it a hundred times before.

When she was finished and the number appeared I kissed her on the top of her head and with as much restraint and composure as I could muster I quietly said “Good job, honey!”  But inside I was bursting.   I realized that this was the way it was meant to happen.  On her own terms Jenna had done her blood sugar check and had taken one more step closer to her independence—a step I wish with all my heart she didn’t have to take.  But the fact of the matter is it’s just one in a long line of firsts necessary for her to become independent in life and in the management of her diabetes.

It’s also just another reason for me to be proudly in awe of Jenna—my beautiful, brave, strong girl.

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Thank you so much, Jenna, for sharing your words!


Very nice post Sherry.

I like the long term focus and short term patience. More than that I love the idea that all the diabetes stuff is just more stuff and that learning to ride a bike drive a car and snap fingers are just as critical of milestones on the path.

All the best.

Finding joy where you can - happiness.

Having things come together nicely - priceless.

Really, really beautiful post. Thanks so much for sharing!

Sherry! You are such a great story teller! Thank you for doing this guest post and introducing us to your gift.

Jenna sounds like a real gem. :-)


Your approach is EXACTLY the one I am trying to take with my son, Richard, who is 3 1/2 and over 2 years into life with T1. His interest comes and goes, but he can load the strip by himself and sometimes attempts to get it to suck up the blood (usually we wind up needing another strip, but I try not to freak out).

Thanks for posting! Looking forward to reading your blog!

Great post! Thanks so much for sharing this post with us. I loved it!

Great Post! Thanks for sharing! Good luck to you and Jenna in your journey! :)

Very moving! Thanks for sharing!! :)

Such a bitter sweet moment. Can't help but be proud and somewhat sad at the same time. I remember when my now 21 yr old chose to do her own shots. I was proud of her but also had such a difficult time watching an 8 yr old stick herself with a needle....still find it difficult to watch.

This brought a tear to my eye. As someone who is in total awe of any child dealing with diabetes (I wasn't diagnosed until already an adult), this touched my heart so much. Give Jenna a huge hug from all of us. :)

Thanks for sharing, Sherry! I remember as a kid, I hated fanfare as well. As a matter of fact, I think I still do! :D

Sherry...awesome job, on the post...and with your daughter too! i like your philosophy and try to do the same w/my t1 daughter who is now 8 (dx at 2)...little by little she IS taking over, but when it seems to much for her, maybe she's had a hard day i always step in and tell her "that's what i'm here for!"

Sherry...awesome job, on the post...and with your daughter too! i like your philosophy and try to do the same w/my t1 daughter who is now 8 (dx at 2)...little by little she IS taking over, but when it seems to much for her, maybe she's had a hard day i always step in and tell her "that's what i'm here for!"

This was such a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I was diagnosed with T1 25 years ago at the age of 4 and am not sure when I did my first BS check, but was at Clara Barton Camp at the age of 6 when I did my first shot. I am also an early childhood educator and I think you are taking the best approach with your daughter!

Hi - Thanks for this post, about four days ago my six year old daughter tested herself for the first time, I was busting with pride and really didn't have anyone who could relate to this accomplishment. I feel as if I have someone to share in the amazement of what she achieved.

Way to go Jenna!!! Way to go Mom! Beautiful story.

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