It’s so easy to say no when confronted with fear. You know that feeling when confronted, the tightening of the gut, the quick intake of breath, then holding it for longer than you should. It’s so easy in that moment to answer whatever question was just asked with a simple, “No.”
But Michael and I decided a long time ago that we would try very hard not to do that when Wendy wanted to try something new. That telling her no without a good reason, only that we were afraid for her, would make her fearful as well. So we endeavored, both of us, to sift through the facts of the situation and figure out if the question was possible.
And Wendy, for her whole life, has always pushed the boundaries of what was possible. So we have been pushed too.
Here is the latest example: Wendy comes home saying she wants to join the Cross Country team. You know, running long distances, away from adults, sometimes in rather remote areas, as a diabetic, with high blood pressure. This, while I’m not there, away at work, relying on others to monitor her medical conditions.
I want to keep her safe, but she’s twelve. She wants the independence, and I get it, but the possibilities of all the things that could go really badly is a list that lies directly behind my eyes. I find that I press the bridge of my nose between my eyes when these questions come asking myself, “How are we going to figure this out?”
We start with the schedules. We buy new running shoes. Then we fill out the forms. We realize after filling out the medical history, medications, and allergy sections that perhaps we are going to totally freak out the coach and maybe we should contact her. So I write her an email:
Hi Coach K,
My name is Darcy Daniels and I ‘m the mom of Wendy Wooden. She is joining your cross country team this year, and we are all very excited about it. She loves to run, and she’s pretty good at it.
She already plays soccer, swims competitively, and races in triathlons.
However, there are a couple of things you should know about her medically. She had an illness at a young child that left her with kidney failure and a type 1 diabetic. She had a kidney transplant at the age of 5, and is on immune suppression drugs. She’s also on some blood pressure meds, but her blood pressure is in really good control. Finally, she has an insulin pump that she usually turns off before she races.
She is very good at knowing her body, but she needs to have her water bottle on hand, and she will need to have a runner’s belt on with fruit snacks in them, in case her sugar is low.
I’ve included the school nurse in on this email, who I’m sure can fill you in. My next email will be to the principal to make sure that there is nursing care for after school activities.
Also, my husband and I are always happy to answer questions. My cell is xxxx. Michael’s Cell is xxxx.
Please contact us with your concerns.
Thanks so much.
Can you imagine being a coach and getting an email like this? Her response was great, just four short sentences:
Thanks for letting me know. I’m excited she’s joining the team. I’ll keep an extra eye out on her. Let me know if you don’t hear back from the principal or the school nurse and I will contact them.
Next, multiple calls to the school nurse about getting after school coverage. There is the normal school nurse, the after school nurse, and the travelling nurse who will go on away track meets. I learn that the coach meets with them on her own (RELIEF!) I learn that they all sit down and meet with Wendy (AGAIN, RELIEF!) I talk to everybody, and we come up with a plan.
The plan fails miserably the first time and Wendy ends up low and in the Nurse’s office.
More phone calls. More meetings.
We come up with a second plan. So far, it’s working. It’s nice to know that not only is Wendy’s medical needs being taken seriously, but so is Wendy herself. She is a part of making the plan, she is being empowered to make decisions, check them, and change them, with her new medical team. Honestly, this is all a parent of a chronically ill child could want.
Onto the next problem: she doesn’t want to wear the lap belt, a typical runner’s belt, because it seems to embarrassing to her. Typical seventh grader, she doesn’t want to be different in any way. I spoke to the nurse about it and I’ve found a set of running pants that have pockets built in so she can carry what she needs without having to have the belt.
Crisis averted, for now.
How much easier would saying NO have been? Good Lord, it would have saved a lot of time and money. But this is something Wendy really wanted to do. When I picked her up the first day, I asked her how it was, and she beamed and said, Better than Great.
High praise from a 7th grader, I’ll take it.