I just came back from participating in a historical reenactment event with about 150 teenagers. It was conducted on a dusty trail, with primitive facilities and cold nights, and it happened to take place on one of my busiest weeks of the year. Why did I do this, you might ask? Do I enjoy all of these things? Not particularly! It’s because my boy really wanted to participate, and because I felt like he still needed a little bit of care and oversight, and I just love him. And because this is what you do when you have a child with type 1 diabetes!
Am I right? How many parents with children with type 1 diabetes find themselves even more engaged in their child’s life than they otherwise might be? How many field trips and school events have you attended? How many birthday parties have you sat outside of? How many trips to the amusement park have you joined in with? How many camping trips that you might otherwise have skipped have become a regular part of your life? How many events have you volunteered at so you might have closer access to your child?
Sometimes these events come with some appealing perks. Many times I’ve been a volunteer on a school trip where volunteers are aplenty and not everyone who wants to can attend. Teachers and nursing staff are grateful for my ability to watch over James and make sure that he’s okay.
Other times, perhaps more often, “joining in” on an activity has some unattractive consequences. It can be socially awkward to tag along to parties. (Though I’ve had some awesome interactions at these parties as well, with great families who I now consider dear friends!) As James gets older, sometimes I’ll stay outside of the party or event, just hanging around to intervene in the case of any diabetes trouble.
Sometimes these events come with a little bit of sacrifice on my part. I wasn’t super enthusiastic to join in with James at this historical reenactment event. It involved taking a large group of teenagers over very steep and rocky trails, crossing streams, sleeping under the stars, long hikes to bathroom facilities, and difficult weather conditions. I went without any other family members or friends. I tried to stay on the periphery of the trip so James could really spend time with his fellow teenagers. And he loved it. And it was much better than I had anticipated. I felt grateful to be a part of it!
And I’m just so grateful that James was able to attend. One of the best parts of type 1 diabetes today is that thankfully so many doors have opened for our kids to fully participate in all the activities life presents for them. But it does often require more work on the back end in order to ensure that those activities are safe! Technology has been a game-changer for our family and for so many others, but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the tremendous role that parents can play in giving their kids with type 1 the fullest life possible. My sacrifices on this trip felt kind of big to me at the time, but I’m humbled by what I see other type 1 parents doing daily, weekly, and at special events to ensure that their kids are safe, happy, and living life to the fullest.
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.