When James was little, we didn’t talk so much about his type 1 diabetes. Sure, we talked about carbs and testing and insulin and shots. But I never really sat him down to try and put this whole experience into words, to create a background for what he did every day and why.
I made a conscious effort to change that as he got older. I discovered that while I had an idea of what he felt about having diabetes based on my observations or things that he’d said, when I actually asked him, I was almost always surprised. Maybe all kids are like that, or maybe James is just a little more reserved about it? I’m not really sure.
Either way, this past week I got a new little window into how he feels about diabetes. He was given a school assignment to research any topic about human anatomy that he might be interested in. He chose diabetes. He wanted to know exactly how it affects the other organ systems and about any potential cures in the works.
I was gratified to see what a good little scholar he had become. Nowadays a research paper like this does not require a visit to the library. (Which in itself is a little crazy to me!) Instead, the teacher provided a long list of reputable online sources, and James worked mostly off of her list. He ended up writing a paper that was several times longer than the minimum required length and using nine sources. Not too shabby.
So I ended up having about zero input on his paper. Part of that was my being a responsible parent and letting him really own his own school career. And honestly, part of it was my having to deal with a million other things and not quite getting around to providing direct input.
After the paper was completed, I had a chance to read it over. It was great. It was factually correct. He concentrated equal amounts of time on type 1 and type 2 diabetes, which I found interesting. Though he has much more experience with the type 1 side of things, he could see the strands of similarity between the two diseases in the way that they affect various parts of the body. He wrote matter-of-factly and rather bravely. My favorite parts were the moments he interjected statements that sound just like a 13-year-old and not like a writer of any scholarly article.
Still, it was an interesting exercise in restraint for me. I wanted to add things to his paper. I wanted him to talk more about diabetes the way that I see it. I kind of wanted him to make a clearer distinction between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but he didn’t. He clearly didn’t have strong feelings about that. (And I certainly don’t want to introduce any anxiety about that concept!)
I wanted to color in my viewpoint, but that was not the right thing to do. I let him write his lovely science paper about a disease that affects him so personally. It makes me grateful for science, for good schools that teach writing and the research process, and for the fact that I was a little too busy at the outset of the project to interfere. It let me get a glimpse into how he feels about things, and so far what I’m seeing makes me happy.
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.