I’ve said once before that being a parent of a child with type 1 can make you a bit of a worry wart — always anticipating which of your children, friends or family members will be next to be diagnosed with diabetes! I feel like it could be at any moment; and I find myself overreacting at the slightest indication of a symptom. Well, now I’m finding out about another brand of worry that comes with the territory. Being a mom of a child with type 1 brings out some major “mama bear” instincts — the instinct to protect, provide, and spare discomfort at any cost.
Recently, I watched a nature special that showed a mother grizzly bear fighting off a much larger male bear to protect her three little cubs. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. The mother bear was absolutely ferocious as she screamed, hit, and plowed through the hungry bear. It was obvious that she would do anything — even die — to protect her little ones. She was powerful because she had something to fight for. I literally got chills as I witnessed this example of motherhood.
I read a recent survey that indicated many children with diabetes had experienced bullying due to their condition. The article went on to say that many parents believed that being seen as different by other kids caused their children more distress than injections and lancet pricks. Children are reportedly being called names ranging from “weird” to “druggie” and being told that diabetes is their fault for eating too much sugar.
When I read this, my mama bear instincts started to flare up inside of me. You want to make any T1D mom get angry? Tell them that their kid is at fault for having diabetes. And yet, so much of the world completely believes this tale. They just don’t know any better. As for the name-calling and other taunts, you can bet that if any of that ever happens to Kaitlyn, I will turn into that ferocious mama bear! I will do whatever it takes to make sure Kaitlyn is protected as much as possible from the bullies at school or wherever they might be found.
So far, Kaitlyn has not experienced too much of this. On only one occasion, one of her classmates told her that she got diabetes because she ate too much; and at the time, Kaitlyn was too young to know that they were wrong. Since then, I’ve made it a point to try to educate the classes as much as possible. At the beginning of each year, I meet with the teacher and make sure he or she understands what diabetes is all about. That way the teacher might be able to help the children understand too. I’ve also had the school nurse come and read a cute book about diabetes to the class so that they get an understanding of what Kaitlyn does each day and why. The last thing I do is to tell Kaitlyn that she is an amazing girl who happens to have diabetes, and that she shouldn’t be scared to let the other kids know about it. We don’t try to hide it or be overly private, and I think it has really helped so far. I believe that the more aware people are about diabetes, the less likely they are to be cruel to those who have it.
To all you other T1D moms out there — I hope you’ll be involved and do what you can to keep bullies away from our kids. Call it overprotective or helicopter parenting — I call it being a mama bear.
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. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.