By Kerri Sparling
Being a mom with type 1 diabetes isn’t something I think about often because, on the average, run-of-the-mill day, diabetes doesn’t influence the way I mom. (And as the mother of two very active kids, “to mom” is definitely a verb. We don’t sit still very often.) My pregnancies were intense in terms of diabetes, but once the kids were born, diabetes went mostly into the background, in terms of my parenting.
The small, almost unseen details are where diabetes influences my parenting now.
My son is almost four, and he’s starting to notice some things. He knows that if my insulin pump vibrates, I need to look at it. He loves pressing the “1, 2, 3” to unlock it, and he always asks about my CGM graph on the screen of my t:slim X2 pump. He’s also repeatedly confused when other moms aren’t beeping. “Where do they keep their diabetes, Mom?”
My daughter is older - a newly-minted ten year old - and quick to educate people who need more information about diabetes. She has retrieved juice boxes when needed in a pinch, and she understands that sometimes I need a few minutes before I can play, or drive, or talk coherently. And she’ll smugly correct her little brother when he muddles up the facts. “No – insulin isn’t when you’re low. The glucose tabs are for when you’re low.”
Diabetes is in the fabric of our existence; they’re used to their mom, diabetes and all. And honestly, I can’t really imagine what it’s like to be a mom who doesn’t have diabetes. What do you mean, you don’t always have snacks on you? What do you mean, kids asking for an extra sippy cup doesn’t make your stomach drop too? What do you mean, you have butter in your butter compartment?! Hahahahaha that is not what that compartment is for!
The learning curve is long, though. Explaining to my son that a symptom of low blood sugar might be his mom bursting frustratedly into tears will take some time. Or that a sustained high blood sugar might make me exhausted, and short-tempered. Or that diabetes has a number of IFs, ANDs, and BUTs to it. My daughter only recently began to understand that concept. The nuances of diabetes take some time for kids to understand.
… admittedly, it takes a long time for adults to understand, too.
Explaining diabetes to my kids is a lifelong journey. They’ll grow up thinking that diabetes is normal, that it’s something mom handles and needs help with here and there but isn’t classified as “a huge deal” because, at the moment, the chaos is controlled.
And that’s where my hard work and hope intersect: I hope diabetes is always a small deal, with most of the work and responsibility on my plate, without too many other health issues in play. I am motivated to continue to try because I want diabetes to remain small. I hope that growing up with a mother who has health concerns will teach my children something about empathy, patience, and compassion.
My ability to parent is not diminished by diabetes. My pancreas is garbage, but the rest of me can still run headlong into parenting with all the love and care my kids deserve.
Kerri Sparling was compensated by Tandem Diabetes Care for her contribution on this topic. However, she created the content and it is based on her personal knowledge, experiences, and observations.
From time to time, we may pass along: suggestions, tips, or information about other Tandem Insulin Pump user experiences or approaches to the management of diabetes. However, please note individual symptoms, situations, circumstances and results may vary. Please consult your physician or qualified healthcare provider regarding your condition and appropriate medical treatment. Please read this Important Safety Information before using a Tandem Diabetes Care product.