When a child is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a lot of things that were never worrisome before suddenly can seem kind of scary. Before I was diagnosed at the age of 6 in 1986, eating a sandwich was a pretty low-stress activity. Kicking a soccer ball around didn’t require much planning past “remember to bring a soccer ball,” and the most difficult part of spending an afternoon at the pool was avoiding some very obvious tan lines on my face from the swim goggles I wore. And I never worried about what might happen to me while I slept, except for a potential attack by the monster that I was sure resided in my closet.
My diagnosis dramatically changed a lot of what was required for me to participate in these everyday activities, but when I look back on my childhood, I don’t remember much of that part. Maybe it was because my parents were so cognizant of keeping the focus on the “life” part of life with diabetes. Or maybe it’s my tendency to be aware of the good in even the most challenging of situations. My life lived with type 1 diabetes could rarely be described as “easy,” but I think it very clearly falls under the category of “good.” Really good.
As a parent of a child with type 1 diabetes, you may be wondering what the future holds for your son or daughter. While I don’t have a super-clear answer to that, I do have a few light-hearted thoughts to offer on the plus-side of growing up with type 1.
Living with type 1 diabetes may enhance your child’s mathematical skills.
Advanced Algebra? No problem!
S/he will be able to identify abdominal organs very specifically.
And I can nearly guarantee s/he’ll be the only kid in class who can correctly identify the pancreas.
Living with a chronic disease tends to enhance our ability to empathize.
Our hearts often grow in an inverse relationship to our pancreatic function.
If you can get your child to a diabetes summer camp, s/he may develop twice the confidence.
“I scored a goal AND I did it with diabetes!” Confidence grows by leaps and bounds when we tackle new things alongside our peers.
Type 1 diabetes teaches us how to listen to what our bodies are telling us.
We grow used to doing these self-checks: Do I feel low? Does that glass of water sound good because I’m high, or am I just thirsty? Type 1 diabetes helps us be more aware.
Your child may dominate the next spelling bee because s/he is used to learning some pretty big words.
Can anyone else in third grade spell “glycated hemoglobin”? Didn’t think so.
Type 1 diabetes is incredibly challenging and frustrating, and we just have to keep working at it. Keep picking ourselves up when we fall. Keep going. Keep trying.
And keep our sense of humor, too.
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.