This little “lesson” isn’t from my personal experience. It is something I’ve learned from my diabetes online community. And I’m super grateful for it and want to pass it along. It isn’t from a blog post or from an article or from a study. Rather it’s from an offhand comment from a friend, and I’d like to share it.
My friend was simply remarking about how she took her daughter to a large birthday party. It was one of those parties that had dozens of kids, a bounce house, and a swimming pool, and it was just super fun…and chaotic. Her daughter was running free and wild, and as the day progressed, my friend noticed that the kids had just finished eating cake and that her daughter had chocolate crumbs on her face. This led to questioning about administering insulin for the party treat. It came out that her daughter did eat chocolate cake but completely forgot to test or to bolus for doing that.
Let’s stop here for a second. I think this is a scenario that is not too uncommon. Even really compliant, responsible children forget things in circumstances like a really fun birthday party! At this point my friend could have responded in a million different ways. That’s just what we do as parents—we react to things that we hear and see all day, every day. How would you have reacted? I think it’s helpful to think about that before listening to what she did with her daughter.
How would I have reacted? Probably a gentle reminder to always test before eating treats and, of course, to bolus for any carbs consumed—especially super carb-heavy foods like cake!
So my friend whipped out her glucometer and tested her daughter. Then with a twinkle in her eye, she looked her in the face, and the two broke out in laughter. Her daughter’s blood sugar was absolutely perfect, bordering on low! As she described the incident, she talked about how they met eyes and had a hearty guffaw. They laughed about how diabetes can be so unpredictable.
The event made me think about the various factors in diabetes treatment and how in a party setting, there are so many variables that can affect blood sugar (excitement, treats, exercise, exertion). But my much bigger takeaway was the LAUGHTER.
Do we laugh when diabetes is unpredictable? Do we throw our heads back and think, “Isn’t this thing just the most?” Maybe it isn’t appropriate to laugh all the time. Or even most of the time. But I think sometimes laughter is JUST the thing. I love how my friend and her daughter laughed TOGETHER, too. Here is a mom that could be perturbed, disappointed, frustrated at her daughter’s imperfect blood glucose-managing behaviors, but instead she saw the incident for what it was—the unpredictability of a chronic disease—and decided to find the humor and make the connection with her daughter.
I loved that moment and found it instructive. As I’ve said so many times, I really think that diabetes is about managing things for the long haul. As such, habits are crucial, and testing and properly bolusing for treats must be taught. But relationships help save kids dealing with chronic illnesses. And healthy attitudes toward perfection, toward the unpredictability of diabetes despite nearly perfect behavior, have got to be cultivated in families.
It made me think a lot. It gave me one more tool that I’m going to try to keep in my back pocket so that when I’m talking to James about important habits in diabetes, I can remember that sometimes the right parenting approach might just be to laugh!
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.