By: Tyler Stevenson
With Father’s Day just around the corner, I thought it would be nice to stop for a moment and reflect on what dads do for us, especially dads who have diabetic children. The pressure and emotional aspects of diabetes can be overwhelming, not to mention the stress it can put on a family. For every needle prick, shot, and counted carb my father (and mother) helped me with, I want to say thanks.
The day I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, my parents immediately let me know that handling my diabetes was going to be a group effort in our household. I have had diabetes for eleven years. I was diagnosed with the disease when I was nine years old, so my parents had to deal with it as I journeyed through puberty and those volatile teenage years.
At the time I received my diagnosis, my life immediately changed, but so did the life of my parents. A nine-year-old kid doesn’t think about what his parents are going though, how they are holding up, what limitations have been placed on their lives because of their child’s disease. Neither does a teenager. But as a junior in college, having been away from home for two years, I have a greater respect for and understanding of what my parents have doing for me to help me deal with diabetes.
I first want to preface everything that follows with a little disclaimer: I am in no way suggesting that any parents change their routine, attitude, or methods of dealing with their child’s diabetes. I am only going to tell you what I have witnessed my parents doing that has worked for me. Everyone has different circumstances, situations, and family make-up, which may or may not allow you to do some of the things my parents have done. My only hope is that what I am about to share will give you a little better insight on how my parents have coped with my disease, which might help you.
I don’t want to bore you with page after page of things we do in great detail, so let me just give you some highlights to consider.
►If there was any one thing my parents did that helped me the most with my disease, it would be calculating carbs at meal/snack time. We have a small notebook in which we record everything. Some people might think that is ridiculous, but it works for us. We write down what my blood sugar is before I eat, along with what I am eating, the carb count, and the total amount of my shot or bolus. If my blood sugar goes low or high after I eat, we have something to reference. My parents even have a list of different fast food items that I like to eat (with carb counts) in the back of the notebook for easy reference.
►I have heard people say that parents need to let their children learn how to handle their disease on their own. My parents’ answer to that is, “Tyler is going to have to deal with his diabetes for his entire life; I think the least we can do is help him for the first 10 years.” Meal time was a group effort and I never felt that I was left alone to handle my disease. Oh, one other point here: they never eat or drink anything I can’t have.
►As blood sugars change, so does the disposition of your child. If he is being difficult, always consider that it might be the “diabetes talking” and not your real child. There have been many times I have felt bad because my blood sugar levels were “off,” and I am sure I was not the easiest person to be around.
►We inform all teachers, administrators, and coaches in writing about my situation. We have a standard package that we send out every year that details everything they should know about my diabetes and what I might have to do if I experience high or low blood sugars at school. Of course, a 504 plan is always an option.
►Unfortunately, most people think diabetes is an easy disease to handle. Some people think you just take a pill or watch your diet closely. They have no idea of the seriousness of the disease, and even when you explain it, they still don’t “get it.” We have learned that unless people have lived it, they will never totally understand it, so we take full responsibility for my disease.
In my family, diabetes is a group disease. I don’t feel that any child should have to deal with this on his own—being a kid/teenager is tough enough.
I hope that these thoughts will help your family come together and fight this disease. I know for a fact that they have helped us. Dad, I know you’re reading this, so I’d like to say thanks for all that you have done to help me with my diabetes. Just relax this Father’s Day and enjoy your day—you deserve it. To all you dads (and moms) out there who have children with diabetes, we really do appreciate all that you do and your sacrifices for us, even though we don’t say it enough.