All of the sudden, we are staring the tween years straight in the face.
How did this happen?
Seriously. Just yesterday Zachary was born. But somehow, in a couple of months, he will be nine (9). The last year of single digits for forever. Oooof.
When he turned eight, he started becoming more independent and I had a moment of, “Oh my gosh, soon I won’t be there to help him with everything, not because I can’t be there (although it is true I haven’t figured out how to clone myself), but because he won’t want me there.” Basically, I freaked out.
This realization–freak out, whatever–meant getting my head out of the sand that time is flying by, and equipping him to take care of himself when he’s away from me must be done now.
For me, part of this means:
Is he carrying his auto-injector with him when he leaves the house?
Is he carrying it with him so it doesn’t stay in an extremely hot (or freezing) car and then have to be chucked and replaced with a high price tag?
Is he returning it to its rightful hook so we all know where to grab it if we need it?
Little by little, I began to pass the responsibility over from my hands to his. And I found him forgetting, needing reminders. (Honestly, who doesn’t? I must have left our EpiPen® at home a thousand times before I remembered to bring it with me everywhere.)
Then I implemented something that a couple of my brilliant friends have done with their kids through the years. And I wondered why I hadn’t tried this before. It’s simple positive reinforcement, and it is a beautiful thing.
This is what we do: first we told Zachary that the Auvi-Q™ is now his responsibility. If he remembers to take his pouch of meds with him, he gets a cotton ball in a jar. If he is responsible from the point of taking the pouch with him out the door and then returning it to its rightful place, he gets two cotton balls in the jar. When he fills the jar up, he gets some sort of reward.
It’s so simple. And it works. Best of all, he loves the challenge and responsibility (along with the possibility of reward) so much that he has filled that jar multiple times.
If he happens to forget his pouch, he loses the opportunity to get that first cotton ball. I, of course, always have one on hand so once he remembers his med pouch, he can take over and still earn that second cotton ball.
We’ve tried to make it hard to forget his little pouch by giving him a couple of visual cues to remind him on the way out the door. The first is this: we keep it on a hook in our hallway. We pass this hook every time we go to the garage. The second visual cue is the cotton ball jar itself. It’s set on a ledge at the end of the hall just before going into the garage. You can’t miss it.
Sometimes he gets distracted bundling up or following other directions, so he does forget to grab the pouch. But, once he realizes that he’s forgotten, he wants to take it right over to ensure earning at least one cotton ball during that time away from the house.
He’s gotten so good at this that I need to use a larger vase. I’m okay with that. See, what he doesn’t know (although he may be on to me) is that I would give the moon for him to consistently remember to have his auto-injector with him. Given the fact that it could one day save his life, I’d pay everything I have to make sure he has it with him if he needs it.
This is what has worked for us to transfer auto-injector responsibility from us parents to Zachary. Tell me, have you found another way to transfer that responsibility? If so, please share in the comments!