I’ve had difficulty organizing my thoughts for this post, the last in my DCamp series. I don’t think I can properly articulate the power the people of DCamp have. They are nothing short of magical.
All the people who work at the Clara Barton Center and Camp Joslin are special. They LOVE being there and it shows. Many of them attended DCamp as children. Some don’t live with diabetes themselves. But all, adults and teens alike, are of a very high caliber – they know how to have fun, but they also know when to be serious. They are an impressive crew.
I’ve chosen to focus on one counselor, however. I’ll call him Mr. D (only because his name starts with D).
I didn’t notice him at first. He wasn’t a counselor in our cabin and I don’t think we ever came in direct contact with him, but he’s one of the first people that pop into my mind when I think of DCamp.
He is vivacious.
He is passionate.
He is responsible.
He is caring.
In him, I see Caleb. I think that’s why he made such an impression on me. He wore a bandana on his head with a bow tied on the top. He was often the loudest singer. I have memories of him running around the dining hall during meals, inspiring smiles and excitement.
This is the Caleb that I know. He doesn’t show this side of himself to those outside his family. But it’s the boy that lives in my home. The vivacious, life of the party, at times pushing-the-envelope-inappropriate Caleb. You can’t help but laugh at him and with him (even when you know you shouldn’t).
It made me teary, and oddly proud to think that Caleb could some day be doing great things like these counselors do.
But there’s more to it than that.
I won’t forget the days-old tattoo that read “Camp Joslin Forever” on Mr. D’s arm. Remember? I said he was passionate.
And I will definitely not forget the story that Mr. D shared with us. One night, some of the counselors living with diabetes held a session for parents only. I think they knew very well the impact they would have on us. They knew we would soak up their words like sponges. They made themselves available selflessly, for our, and thereby our children’s, benefit.
Mr. D spoke about always being the person primarily responsible for his diabetes. I think he said he was diagnosed in his pre-teens. His parents had left his care almost entirely up to him. He doesn’t fault them for that, nor did he present it in any way other than they thought they were doing what was best for him.
It’s a difficult balance – to allow your child age appropriate responsibility without giving them too much.
Mr. D explained that although he was in charge of his diabetes, he wasn’t taking care of it. He was letting himself hover in the 300s without concern. His parents didn’t know.
Then he told us about a serious seizure he had at a friend’s house during a sleepover. He described it as his wake-up call. After that, with the help and guidance of his friends at Camp Joslin, he started managing his diabetes well. He spoke about how much better he felt. That he didn’t even realize he had been feeling badly before because he didn’t know what it felt like to feel good. He proudly announced the A1C results he has maintained since that pivotal event. We were proud right along with him.
He wished that his parents had been more involved.
On this point the panel was unanimous:
They want to be in charge of their diabetes, but they don’t want to be alone. They want to know their parents care, but they don’t want to be judged or lectured. They want their diabetes to be theirs, but they want input and gentle guidance when they need it.
I think they called it “supervised autonomy”. Let diabetes be theirs, but don’t leave them alone to manage it all by themselves.
It’s hard to explain and possibly harder to execute.
They spoke about having weekly or daily meetings to review things. Parents and teen/young adult collaborating; providing time together to allow for discussion and troubleshooting.
Without judgment or consequences.
I had heard this before. My friend, Melinda, shared a similar story with me. This is how she worked things with her son, Michael. Melinda and Michael are an inspiration and I think of their example often. In fact, Melinda is the reason we went to family camp in the first place. Her high praise made it a “must do” experience.
I am so thankful to the people who make DCamp what it is. The facilities, activities and songs are great, but at the end of the day it’s the people that matter. If a permanent 6” by 8” tattoo on a young man’s upper arm doesn’t portray the impact that DCamp has on people living with diabetes, what does?
You can read the rest of my DCamp series posts here.