James has a lot of doctor visits. He sees a pediatrician and his endocrinologist and a nutritionist and sometimes a psychologist so he has someone to talk to about having type 1 diabetes. He also sees an optometrist at least once a year.

James’ eyesight is pretty bad. It was discovered during a routine vision screening through the school district in second grade. When I first took him to follow up with the optometrist, I was shocked by how much he really could not see without glasses. One of my first questions (and maybe the one you’re thinking about) was whether or not diabetes caused the rapid deterioration in his vision. The answer was absolutely not. James has bad eyes, and he has diabetes, but the diabetes didn’t cause it. I had to ask the expert though!

At our most recent visit, I took James all by himself. With four kids, I often find myself in doctors’ waiting rooms with multiple children to watch after. But whenever I can, I try to find somebody to look after the other kids for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s more practical. Some visits are just too important and too chock-full of information for me to be distracted by redirecting and disciplining my other kids. The endocrinologist’s office is one of these places. I need to be able to talk to James’ endo frankly, discuss complicated concerns, and listen to her wonderful advice.

Another reason I take my kids alone to the doctor is a little sillier. I feel like it’s sort of like “special time” with them. Special time was a phrase my husband’s family used growing up. He grew up in a busy, rambunctious family of seven. In order to make sure every kid felt, well, “special,” every single kid got a “special time” with each parent. Special time could be anything: a date to the ice cream parlor, a trip to the park. It was simple and usually pretty fun.

We try to do that at our house too. Craig and I relish the opportunities to take just one of the kids and treat them to a pie date or a special musical event. Craig has even taken each older boy alone on a full-day trip to Disneyland®. Talk about special time!

So we definitely try to do the fun stuff. But honestly, I think sometimes doctor visits provide even more closeness with my kids. At the doctor we get to share boring time together. We have to make conversation. We have to get over being nervous about things like blood draws or shots. I get to focus just on them in the most mundane of ways.

But somehow going through the boring stuff and the icky stuff together makes our bonds even stronger. I swear by it. I’m actually grateful for the trials I get to endure WITH my kids, because I think it helps them to know how much I love them, and it helps me to get to know the inside soul of my kids. How brave they are. How compassionate they are. How imaginative they are. It is just REAL, and while I love the fun stuff, sure, the real stuff is what helps us in the tough times.

Anyway, back to the optometrist… This time around the doctor started talking very frankly to James: “I need to check your eyes to see if your diabetes has affected them.” And this worried him to some degree. It allowed me, with the doctor’s help, to talk about some truths and misconceptions about eye health in people with diabetes. James’ eyes turned out to be perfectly fine. He doesn’t like having his eyes dilated, but he now understands why we do it, and that is enough for him right now.

It wasn’t an exciting day or particularly noteworthy. I wonder if James will even remember it as he gets older. He did grab my hand, though, as we were leaving (gosh, I love that he still does that!) and said in a cute voice, “Mom, being together today, it is a little like special time!” Yes, James, yes it is!

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.

Disneyland is a registered trademark of the Walt Disney Company. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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