I hear this question several times a day from my two-year-old daughter. For her birthday, she received a toy doctor’s kit. And in it is her favorite instrument: the syringe.
When I was a child, I would save the syringe for last when examining my “patient” (who was usually my little sister). I would listen to her heart, look in her ears and mouth, check her temperature, and then declare, “You are VERY sick. You need a shot.” Undeterred by her shrieking and squirming, I would dramatically pull out the syringe and look at my sister with wide eyes. Then I would plunge the syringe into her upper arm, excitedly anticipating her fake crying. The injection was the greatest joy of the experience.
Now, when I play doctor with my daughter, she does the same–saving the syringe for last. She then says, “Shot, mommy?”, lifts my shirt, and does what she sees me do daily–inject myself in the stomach. I fake cry, she smiles, and we move on to the next adventure.
My daughter absorbs and observes everything. She repeats my words and mimics my mannerisms. She knows that she isn’t allowed to touch my insulin pump, and when I check my blood sugar, I watch her squeeze her own finger and grin. Oh, the excitement of needles when you are young! When I insert a new pump set and hold my breath, or say “ouch,” my daughter empathetically asks, “OK, mommy?” And I always answer, “I’m OK.”
I’m sad that my daughters have to watch me deal with my disease, mostly because I wish diabetes wasn’t my cross to bear. I can’t dive into a holiday meal without dosing insulin, I can’t exercise on the elliptical without eating, and I can’t drive without testing. My life is full of “first this, then that,” and the “first this” is always diabetes-related. I can’t put my disease on the sidelines without dire and nearly immediate consequences.
Though diabetes is a real pain (literally and figuratively), I know that my disease is teaching me powerful lessons that will help me raise my children healthfully in a world full of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and many more ailments. I am instilling values in them, and they are daily witnessing the reality of a life-long disease. There’s no sugarcoating my experience. My girls see me both high and low, literally with my numbers and figuratively with my moods as I deal with my diabetes.
I pray that what I’m doing is making a big difference in my children’s lives. We bake and cook together using the best and healthiest ingredients possible. My husband grew an organic vegetable garden in our backyard this summer, which thrilled our two-year-old. We exercise as a family by dancing in the kitchen, chasing each other through the house, kicking a ball, climbing playground monkeybars, and wrestling. We value sleep and create bedtime routines that soothe our children into blissful rest.
Will our efforts pay off? I hope so. I’ve been blessed with the responsibility of raising two beautiful girls. I only get one chance. Diabetes is my cross to bear, but it is serving an obvious purpose in my life. Without it, I know I wouldn’t be the mother I am today, the one who in her heart-of-hearts knows the value of a healthy, able body. May my girls experience health and happiness their entire lives. And may they someday play doctor with their children, having never felt the real sting of an insulin syringe on their own stomachs.