These dads know exactly what it’s like for their kiddos living with type 1 diabetes — because they have type 1 too. Here they share what they’re most proud of (and for one daughter, what she’s most thankful for).
Christopher, Thatcher, and Wyatt
“I was diagnosed with type 1 when I was 12 years old. Now as a dad to two sons with T1, I can see how different it was for me to adjust after my diagnosis compared to how my 4-year-old twin sons have adjusted. It’s surprising to see how sensitive they are to different carb counts and insulin amounts. How we communicate with diabetes is also different. It can be a challenge to explain type 1 to very young kids, and it helps that they see me managing my own diabetes. My son Wyatt recently said, ‘I wish I didn’t have type 1 diabetes.’ Those kinds of comments are difficult to hear, but they’re such a good opportunity to say, ‘It is hard, and we’re going to get through this together.’
“The message I try to send my sons is that life with type 1 goes on, and as long as you keep an eye on it, it’s not going to hold you back. When I was diagnosed, it was right as insulin pumps were becoming a thing; most people didn’t have them yet. My aunt had diabetes but she didn’t take good care of it. Things felt bleak, but I pushed through it. I played sports and became a firefighter. I didn’t let diabetes stop me.
“The world my kids are growing up in is very different. There is so much new technology to help with control. It feels so good to know that they can have dreams and goals, and they will be able to reach them.”
Chris and Henry
“My son Henry has been living with type 1 for two years, and I am floored by how well he is able to perform his own checks and some of his other care tasks, no questions asked. He is so good at self-management that I sometimes almost forget that he has diabetes! He has inspired me to take better care of my own type 1. We recently went on a fishing trip, and I forgot my testing kit. Guess who had me covered? He even had an extra snack for me. That’s my boy!”
John and Mark
“I went through a lot of guilt and fear after my son Mark was diagnosed with type 1 at 10 years old. I thought he would hate me and blame me for his diabetes for the rest of his life. In the early days, I let his mother step in and teach him how to care for his T1. But then one day, a few months after diagnosis, he asked me if we were still going to go for our Father’s Day hike, a father-son outing that was our annual tradition. I was shocked that he still wanted to go anywhere with me.
“We went hiking that day and ended up having this really meaningful conversation about T1, and we took care of our diabetes together for the first time. In the end, the hike was still the exciting, fun time it always was. We shared this new bond, but nothing else had really changed. That day was a turning point for me in how I related to my son’s diabetes. Diabetes had not derailed me from reaching my goals in life, and now it was my singular mission to not let it derail my son’s goals.
“Fifteen years later and we’re still hiking and checking our blood sugar together. On a recent trip to Iceland, we even met up with another father-son hiking duo with T1. Amazing!”
Arielle and Lawrence
“The eve of my diagnosis was quite different than most others’ experiences. My mom was out for a night with her friends, so I was home with my dad and sister. My dad had noticed that I was wetting the bed the past few nights, and that night in particular I was extremely thirsty and going to the restroom to pee an awful lot. He didn’t want to disturb the evening, but he knew what the symptoms were since he had experienced them himself in the past. While I was sleeping, he tested my blood sugar and it was elevated, but not too bad.
“My parents made a difficult decision. They knew that they had to take me to the doctor, but they wanted to give me one last day of real fun. The next day, my parents took me to the circus and I got to indulge just a bit for one day. Now, of course they knew people with T1D could do that as well, but they knew it would mean insulin, testing, and so much more work. After that fun day, we went straight to my pediatrician, who confirmed my diagnosis. I was so lucky that my dad was able to give me that last day as a carefree kid.
“Having a dad with T1D has had other perks as well. Throughout the years we would play games together; for example, every time I saw someone else test their blood sugar in public, I would get an extra dollar added to my allowance. It was so uncommon to test at the restaurant table in those days, so I rarely won, but it was still so fun. We also used to test our blood sugar together and race to see whose meter was faster; of course I always had the latest tech!
“Type 1 diabetes teaches you independence at an early age. My dad definitely shared this with me. He gave me this insight starting at age 5: I would give my own shots, test, calculate insulin-to-carb ratios, and pack my own meals. My mom and dad helped in the beginning, but it was so important to my dad that I learn on my own. I totally see why now. As a person with T1D, you need to be your own advocate and figure out what works best for you. I’m so glad I learned this lesson early on.”
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.