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Sometimes as a parent you must have difficult conversations with your child. When that child has been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes the questions you get about diet, insulin, exercise and basically, life, may come at you unexpectedly. You learn to take it one question and one day at a time and soon diabetes care and all the questions that come with it becomes a part of your day-to-day routine. Before you know it, you start to think to yourself that you might just have it under control and start to instill that feeling of comfort in your child. You tell your child that there’s nothing they can’t do while managing their diabetes.
Then that day comes
Then it happened, my 8-year-old son proclaimed to me that he was going to be just like his uncle and become a soldier when he grew up. You see, my brother was part of the infantry in the Illinois National Guard. In 2006 he served 11 months in Iraq. When he was fifteen years old my brother lived with us. Back then my son was a toddler and they formed a very tight bond. As we drove home from a visit my brother one day my son was adamant about following in his footsteps. Since my husband had been a U.S. Navy recruiter I knew that having Type 1 diabetes was a disqualifier for the military.
In a calm, even tone and with tears in my eyes I explained to my son that because of his diabetes that he wouldn’t be able to be a soldier like his uncle. I went on to explain that it was too dangerous for him and the other soldiers because he might not be able to manage his diabetes while away from home. Soon I heard a quiet, “That’s not fair.”, accompanied by sobbing from the back seat. There was nothing more that I could do but comfort him as best I could. That day was the first time my son cried about having diabetes.
I think that incident was a profound one for my son. At that tender age, he realized that having a medical condition that is considered a disability, or handicap, might label him but he wasn’t going to let it hold him back. He began educating his classmates about his diabetes. He showed them how he checked his blood sugar, how he administered his insulin, how he counted his carbohydrates and why he had to carry a bag full of supplies and snacks.
When raising a child, you try to encourage them to follow their dreams, explore every option and never give up on anything they want to do. You don’t anticipate your child coming up against an impenetrable brick wall. At which time you do your best to console them and talk to them about other things that they could do.
I think my son’s outlook about his diabetes is why he’s had the success he’s had in his short 19 years on Earth. He graduated valedictorian of his high school class while being involved in many school organizations and playing three sports all through school. To this day, he has not been back for a hospital stay due to his diabetes.
We’ve been over many hurdles the last 12 years, and it’s true that managing your child’s diabetes does become part of your daily routine. In my next blog, I’ll talk about how we dealt with difficult situations at school and some of the emotional toll Type 1 diabetes has on a teenager as they are trying to figure out who they are as a person.
Do you have a tried and true way to help your kids overcome barriers? Share them in the comments.
Presented by: Tamara Martin
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