Sleepovers | Type 1 Diabetes in tow

This is Caleb…

It’s something we did early on with family, when Caleb was four years old and newly diagnosed. It proved to be an overly stressful situation. Invites were few and then non-existent.

Eight years later, Caleb is a tween in middle school and is invited for the first time ever to a friend’s house for a birthday party sleepover.

As with other milestones in his diabetes care, I took the cue from Caleb. He wanted to go. He developed a close group of friends in his new school and was excited about the party. Most notably, he did not even mention diabetes.

It’s often the first thing he thinks of, and a factor in choosing whether or not to do something. I see it in his face as the questions form: “who will be there, what kind of food will there be, how will I know if it has peanuts, how will I count carbs, what if I’m high, what if I’m low, what is this event about anyway? oh, who cares, it’s too much trouble, no thank you.”

This time the only question he had was, “Can I go, PLEEEEEEEZE?!?!?!?”

So he went.

There were a mountain of variables complicating blood sugar management, and by “complicating” I mean “bringing hell to earth”. He went to the party straight from a baseball game. Games vary in intensity and there is often some kind of blood sugar clean up needed on the other side. He arrived to ginormo pieces of ice cream cake - he was a late arrival because of the game and they were kind enough to hold off so he could be included. I’m not kidding when I say these pieces of cake were huge. Caleb often sends pictures of food with his hand in it as a point of reference for carb counting. His hand was dwarfed by the size of the piece of cake. And did I mention it was ice cream? “Happy birthday to yous” transitioned to an intense and seemingly never-ending match of manhunt. Movies, snacks, chatting and at some point in the wee hours boys were starting to fall asleep.

Blood sugars were all over the map. Gus, juice boxes, sugar tabs, correction boluses, extended boluses - they were all in play. There was a period of about 45 minutes where Caleb and I were texting each other while everyone else was asleep because we needed to be sure he recovered from a low and was safe to sleep.

It was a nuisance and it was disruptive, but Caleb did not complain once. He rolled with it. He was responsible and attentive to his diabetes, but he did not worry about it. He was in communication with me, but also made decisions on his own. Not all of them worked out, but he took corrective action as he needed.

All I could think of the next morning was what a mess his bgs were and how tired he must be. When I picked him up, all he had to say was what a great time he had, and filled me in on a litany of details of tween-boy, fun activities.

Two months later, he’s invited to his cousin’s new home for a sleepover with his brother and sister. Variables are fewer and blood sugars are much more cooperative. Caleb, who never ever wakes up to Dexcom alerts, blood sugar checks, or screaming sirens in his ear, sets an alarm on his phone to wake and check at 2am. And he does! Bg was a magical 150 and it’s right back to sleep for him, nothing else to talk about until morning.

Sleepovers with type 1 diabetes - it seemed like the one “thing” we hadn’t yet dealt with and it was a gloomy cloud hanging over me, pulling at me, giving me angst. Although I’m not worry-free about the prospect of future sleepovers, Caleb has shown me he can be responsible and do what is needed to fit diabetes, the thing he can’t leave behind, into the fun he doesn’t want to miss.


It’s obvious to me that you’re perfecting one of the most difficult, yet essential trait that Caleb needs in the long run: the ability to independently manage his diabetes safely while also paying attention to other important activities. Like having fun! Congratulations to both of you!


Thank you, @Terry4. I give Caleb all the credit. No, not true - I give credit also to his friend and his family for putting their friendship first and including Caleb. Caleb still has moments of “I don’t wanna bc I’m worried about my blood sugar.” But it’s been wonderful to see this new, more confident side of him lately. Oh - more credit must be shared - cgm in the cloud has been empowering.

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It sounds like Caleb is doing a great job. I was 17 when DX’d so my parents were well beyond active management of my diabetes. I went on my own immediately. Now to be fair I grew up around diabetes and understood the ins and outs well before DX. However, despite my experiences I played host to several kids growing up whose parents needed or allowed a sleepover and they had diabetes For a long time my mom (with type 1) sort of was the community person that parents could take their children too for a sleep over or afternoon sty over. It provided me a good basis of comparisons about how the kids dealt with diabetes.

What I came to know is there was two types of kids. Those who were afraid and those who were not. Those who feared diabetes often were those who had never made big decisions about their disease. Those who were not afraid had a different experience. They tended to be consulted and based on their age decide about diabetes in concert with their parents.

The kids were afraid often required my mom to administer insulin or remind them of important things like the morning snack, etc. Those who were not afraid were proactive, they gave their own injections and would often fix their own snack.

As these kids aged, it was no doubt that being afraid was a recipe for later trouble. Frankly, I believe they could never fail and recover. I came to believe that with diabetes the worst thing we can do is not let kids experiment (within reason) and fail. Let’s face it, life is not defined by failure or challenges. Life is defined by how you deal with these challenges.

Sounds like Caleb is on the right track and you and his dad are to be commended for the effort, letting a kid fail is the most difficult thing of all. The only thing more difficult is not letting them fail and dig out of the problem.

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Having three kids, I’ve come to adopt the “learn through failure” approach. It’s quick learning and I’m impatient. I find that approach harder to manage with diabetes bc of the risk involved. Scraping a knee, getting a zero for a homework assignment left at home…not such a big deal. 33 bg at school in the middle of PE class - a little more alarming and concerning. So in diabetes care, I see your theory proven - Caleb has been more tentative in this area of responsibility than others, and I attribute it to my actions and how I’ve allowed our roles in his care to be split. Even so, I’m not sure that I would do anything different if I had to do it all over again.

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