With the passing of the summer solstice, my family makes another transition every year—the moving on from school to break. There are so many fun things to do together, family vacations, and more downtime. Yet there it challenges of coordinating all this fun. It’s an expected change – after all, it happens every year – but it still brings stress. This has me thinking about the smaller transitions that we face on a regular basis and how we can manage, cope, even celebrate those as we move forward in our complicated lives.
In our house, the calendar rules. At the beginning of each year I spend time with my son, a young man with autism and Type 1 diabetes, filling out the calendar with as much information as we can provide at the time – birthdays, holidays, even which days he gets to wash his bedding (he LOVES doing laundry!).
On the equinoxes and solstices, we mark the event by buying flowers and planting them in our garden. Like many families who are challenged with Type 1 diabetes, we celebrate my son’s “diaversary” – the date of his original diagnosis. It is a celebration of strength and resilience, and marks another year of coping with the daily requirements of managing this disease. Seeking out these moments throughout the year and putting them on the calendar makes things more manageable for my family.
Transitions for us also revolve around the people who are part of Alex’s team. His endocrinologist recently retired and we had to say a tearful goodbye. After 18 years with the same specialist I am dreading making the change to someone new who doesn’t know us. To address daily and seasonal transitions, we use the calendar and to address this changeover in people, I have created a document that I share with new members of Alex’s team who need to get to know him and support him in many parts of his life. This three to four-page document, its shorter version formatted as a One Page Profile, convey what is important to my child and what is important for him. These concise documents give me a little more confidence that these transitions will go smoothly.
As much as we struggle with change and transition, we can do little to prevent it. Instead, I try to see transitions as opportunities to create new routines, to expand our skills, to stretch our comfort zones. Preparing and framing these transitions as new adventures can help the process go more smoothly.
Joanna Jaeger is the mother of two young adults, one with autism, both with Type 1 diabetes. All along her journey, Joanna has found ways to connect with other families both seeking and providing support. She has been a long-time volunteer with Parents Helping Parents in Santa Clara, CA (www.php.org) providing help to families of children with a wide range of special needs as a mentor parent, advocate, fundraiser and Board member. She is passionate about food, travel, and baseball.