Just today I was talking to a friend about James’ diagnosis. People who spend a lot of time with our family are always very aware that James has type 1 diabetes. They see him test his blood sugar or count carbs, and they ask a lot of questions. This time we talked about the diagnosis process and how sick James was and how he handled it so well.
I have written before about James’ diagnosis. I’ve even written about how lucky we were to have fantastic educators at the hospital. I do credit those professionals with our mainly positive view of a diabetes diagnosis! It made a huge difference to us in those early days when we were so confused and scared. Those positive interactions, together with really excellent support from family and friends following our diagnosis, meant the world to us.
But it occurred to me only recently that there was another factor involved that I hadn’t previously considered. It was James himself — and some very special qualities that he possesses — that made diagnosis easier. And I had never credited him before!
It’s time to change that.
First things first. I want to praise James for some unique personality traits that led to our easier acceptance of his diabetes diagnosis. Specifically, James just isn’t super sensitive. He isn’t physically sensitive, so frequent blood testing and pokes weren’t terribly traumatic for him. He also isn’t emotionally sensitive, so he wasn’t traumatized terribly by his hospital stay or by the big changes in his life. He’s also relatively unconcerned about “fitting in,” and that meant that as a very young child he wasn’t worried at all about having his friends see him test his blood sugar or get shots. He’s always been totally happy to be himself and do things his own way.
These three ways that James is perhaps less sensitive than some has definitely colored the way that our whole family has viewed his diagnosis.
James acclimated really easily to testing his blood sugar and getting insulin injections. If he had had sobbing fits it would have been a lot harder for all of us! He was such a champ when it came to the changes we had to make — like counting carbs and waiting short periods before eating so that his blood sugar could be more ideal. While the schedule disruption could be very upsetting, James’ easygoing personality enabled him to handle those major changes without too much trauma. And socially, he never suffered for being “different,” or at least he hasn’t yet.
The sum total of these personality traits meant that we didn’t have a child that seemed to “suffer” terribly during the early days of diagnosis. It made a huge difference. Not all kids are going to adjust this easily. And as ideal as our circumstances may have been, I want to acknowledge the fact that one thing that made our time “easier” had everything to do with personality, everything to do with James.
Now, this is also to point out that every kid will struggle with something different. We didn’t struggle at diagnosis as much as some might. However, it’s worth pointing out that there is a flip side — James’ super-relaxed personality also means that he needs extra reminders to remember basic things like testing blood sugar and giving insulin after meals.
I think that every kid with diabetes will have some things that come easily and some things that are really hard. This will look different for everybody! I’ve seen some kids become remarkably responsible and self-sufficient in their care, which is a great trait to have. Other kids are really great at mentoring or advocating for diabetes. Some kids are extremely conscientious, and I bet their parents are so grateful! Every kid comes with different strengths and weaknesses. It’s just the way that it works, and as parents our best response is to accept the child we have and work with whatever skills or personality traits we’ve got to make our individual lives with diabetes as wonderful as possible!
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.