Mom Wants A Diabetes Cure

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Teaching Lessons to My Son

I often think of what I want to teach my son about diabetes and how I'm going to teach it. I feel the best way is to teach through my actions and my attitude.

If he's low, I matter-of-factly tell him he's low and that he needs to drink a juice. I also tell him he's low and that the way he feels is what it feels like to be low.
I do the same when he's high...minus the juice.

When we're out in public whether it's a park, a store, a party, a friend's home, etc., I carry on with his management as though it were the most normal, natural thing in the world. I don't take him to a private area, or shield what I'm doing with my body. Why hide the fact that he needs a poke in the finger to release a tiny drop of blood that will reveal what his blood sugars are? Why hide that I need to pull out this pager looking thing from under his shirt and press a bunch of buttons so that he can receive life saving hormones? Mystery leads to suspicion which leads to people devising their own perceptions which leads to shunning of a person if those perceptions about them are negative. Take the mystery away and a person is left with nothing but what they are faced with: A boy who's body cannot produce insulin and the only way to know how much to provide is through a glucose test and then to manually inject the insulin.

I've told him the importance of testing at every meal and during everytime he feels "funny". I've told him that if we didn't check him often and if we didn't dose him when we needed to, his numbers would be too high and that it could damage his body. I've told him that if he's too low and he doesn't eat or drink something that will raise his blood sugars, that he could have seizures. I've told him that if we checked him when we were supposed to and dosed him when we were supposed to, and treated lows when we were supposed to, that he could lead a very healthy life.

I give validity to his feelings. If he tells me his stomach hurts, or he has a headache, or he feels hungry, I don't brush it off and tell him he's fine. I first test him to make sure the source of his ailment isn't a high or low. If he tells me that he doesn't want diabetes anymore, I acknowledge that diabetes sucks and leave it at that. He's entitled to his feelings. He's the one who has diabetes. He's the one who is going to feel like shit when his numbers aren't just right. He's the one who is going to have to manage his diabetes on those days as an adult when he would want nothing more than to stay buried under the covers and not have to face the world and deal with diabetes.

I give the attitude that everything is fixable. If he eats something without telling me, I tell him that he can't do that because I won't know the proper amount of insulin to give him to stop him from getting high. But I tell him that I'll check him and do a correction. I don't go ballistic when he eats something he shouldn't because he'll just hide the offending act from me. Hiding a secret is so much more dangerous than the action itself.

I never stop him from doing what he enjoys in order to dose or test him. I don't want him thinking that diabetes gets in the way. I don't want him to resent diabetes. If he's out on his bike, I go outside to him, stop him momentarily and do what I need to do. If he's watching his favorite show, I go to him and do what I need to do. I let him be a kid. He's going to have enough to deal with as an adult.

If he wants to take part in managing his diabetes, I let him have at it. What better way to provide confidence in managing his diabetes than to teach him the skills as early as possible and give him some empowerment? He knows how to check his glucose, dose himself with his pump, weigh his food. He knows that sugary carbs like cookies, cake, and candy should rarely be eaten because they raise his blood sugars too quickly and that it might make him feel not so good. He knows that juice and tabs are the best way to raise his blood sugar when he's too low. He knows that certain favorite foods like Applebee's grilled cheese isn't the best dinner for him because it makes it difficult for us to keep his numbers from going too high and that we prefer that he not eat it.

He knows that when we do put limits on his activity (like when's he's too low and needs a rise), and his food choices, it's because we want to help prevent complications. He knows that exercise, whether it's through play or a disciplined activity like a sport, is healthy and will help keep his numbers in a good range.

I always tell him the purpose of my decisions. I can't predict that Brendon will apply my lessons to whatever he's faced with as an adult, but I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't at least give a concerted effort in teaching him.

There's so much more to teach him, but for his 6 year old mind, I think he's learned more than any child should.


  • I think that's great. My dad has told me again and again that their goal was to integrate diabetes as much as possible into my life so it really was "the most normal, natural thing in the world." I think it was the smart thing to do, and look how I turned out!

    Ok, well, maybe not... :-)

    By Blogger Allison, at 3/09/2006 2:41 PM  

  • I think you turned out great Allison ;)

    By Blogger Shannon, at 3/09/2006 2:46 PM  

  • I think you take a great approach with him :-)

    By Blogger Erica, at 3/09/2006 3:02 PM  

  • I hate that any kid has to know any of this stuff. I hate that any kid has to live with diabetes. But I am so glad that if it has to be that way, at least there are great parents like you out there, to help make this a little less rough, the best it can be, for their kids. Parents like all those in the d-blog community. Parents like mine.

    I bow down to you all.

    By Anonymous Caro, at 3/09/2006 4:07 PM  

  • such wisdom and love.
    Your guidance will help him lead a wonderful life!

    By Blogger Tongue in Cheek Antiques, at 3/09/2006 4:17 PM  

  • You are doing a great job. I kind of had to laugh though. My boss said to me yesterday the following:

    I have known people with diabetes and you seem more concerned with it than anyone I have ever known.

    I said: There are lots of parents doing what I do to care for their kids with D.

    He responded: Really? Even parents who have been doing it for a long time?

    People do not get it. I think he knew A guy who had it and did not take care of himself. I am so proud of you and your care of your son. They are kids first and we do what we can to make sure they are healthy ones. Keep up the great work. Kudos Mom!!!

    By Blogger Vivian, at 3/09/2006 4:36 PM  

  • "Even parents that have been doing it for a long time?"

    I think my mother would attest to that. You guys are always and forever (great song) our parents. Your worries don't stop as soon as we move out of the house.

    I think it's made a huge difference in my life, having diabetes seamless integrated into my life so that it becomes just Part of Me. My mother and father's careful handling of diabetes and their efforts to keep it all "normal" have made such a huge impact on how I view the disease.

    Actually writing the word "disease" even feels a little odd. Because it's just me. It's all just me.

    By Blogger Kerri., at 3/10/2006 9:50 AM  

  • Erica, Caro, and Corey Thank you :)

    Vivian, some people have no common sense. Unbelievable. And thank you :)

    Kerri, "Always and Forever" (Luther Vandross version) was Jeff's and my wedding song! I feel funny using the term disease too. I always think of something that infects your body like leprosy (sp?).

    By Blogger Shannon, at 3/10/2006 10:18 AM  

  • Shannon,

    You are doing a great job - your son will appreciate it very much as he grows into an adult.

    The thanks and respect for my parents grew exponentially as I grew into an adult, and I am so very thankful for every little thing they did for me.

    They helped me learn that diabetes will be with me for a long time, that I have to be responsible for it, that I can do whatever I want as long as I try my best to keep things mostly under control, and to never ever use diabetes as an excuse for anything - or others will impose their own limitations on me because of it.

    I can't stress enough how great a job you are doing. And we all know what incredible challenges you face. I personally think it is easier for me to be a diabetic than to be the parent of a diabetic child.

    I have a great deal of respect and gratitude towards you and all other parents dealing with similar things.

    Keep up the great work, and never hesitate to let us all know if you need help - even if it's just a bitch session or venting or whatever. We're all here for you.

    And yes, he will remember and thank you for all of the hard work and sacrifices. Probably not tomorrow, but it will come. I promise.

    By Blogger Scott K. Johnson, at 3/10/2006 12:31 PM  

  • Wow Scott, you've made my day :)

    By Blogger Shannon, at 3/10/2006 12:59 PM  

  • What a great post. I feel so intune to everything you said. We too have tried to make diabetes just a part of our everyday life with Carylanne. We let her be a child while also teaching her and her sister good healthy habits. Ihope to that she will learn over time and carry on with what we try to instill in her. It is a tough road we are all on. But I tell Carylanne that God has put us on this path for a reason. We have to take the walk to find out.

    By Blogger SUPERMOM, at 3/12/2006 10:44 PM  

  • Supermom, I think the best thing we can do is help our kids to feel normal :)

    By Blogger Shannon, at 3/13/2006 9:11 AM  

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