Before James was even born, I read about a million parenting books. I mean, I was really excited and was going to do everything perfectly and wanted to have the best head start possible! Somewhere in all my reading, I started getting a little confused. It seemed as if all these parenting gurus had such different ideas about the right way to raise children, and some of them even seemed to be in direct conflict with each other.
I took the question to my mom. “Mom, what was your philosophy on raising children?” I asked. I really wanted to know her opinion. She’s a fantastic mom, and she raised five children! She looked at me a little confusedly, and I went on to clarify that I wanted to know her stance on things like sleeping through the night, discipline, allowances—you know, her “philosophy.”
She gently explained that she really didn’t have one. This baffled me! I had read so many books! All of them had “philosophies” and strong opinions about one right way to parent. She went on to tell me that every kid and every situation was different. I remember being disappointed by her answer. My mom had clearly not done her research! Right?
Now I am a parent with a decade of experience under my belt and lots of little personalities living in my home. And I get it. I totally get where she was coming from. I don’t really have a “philosophy” per se. I follow the best course of action for my children at the time. I’ve found my inner direction, and I somehow seem to know what my kids need. Reading the parenting books did help, because I remember reading some great advice! But it ALWAYS changes. There is never one school of thought that always prevails.
And so it is right now in my life, in one aspect of family relationships related to type 1 diabetes: special treatment. James has diabetes. It means that sometimes he has to do hard things, like testing his blood sugar, feeling low, counting every carb gram he eats, etc. I do have sympathy for him, because it is hard.
So sometimes James just gets to do things that the other kids DON’T get to do. Sometimes he gets candy to bring him up from a low blood sugar. Sometimes he gets a special outing (to the endocrinologist or otherwise) because of what he is dealing with. Just for fun, he gets a dollar for every blood sugar reading that hits our randomly chosen number (100) right on the head. He has a special relationship with the school nurse that his brother Luke might be a little envious of, and that is okay. I think getting a treat is just what James needs sometimes. It brings a bit of joy that helps him realize that life can be both hard AND fun.
That said… sometimes it is easier and better to let my kids without diabetes have some of the perks of diabetes. Sometimes I do just give Luke or Ben a juice box when James gets one for a low. It makes them smile, and it is easy to do. In some ways I think it brings solidarity to our family. Sometimes it is fun to do something in honor of James but to share it with the rest of the family. Because sometimes those little moments are just what my other kids need to remind them that life can be hard AND fun.
I’ve noticed that I don’t really follow a rhyme or reason when it comes to how I determine if a particular perk is JUST for James or if we’ll share it with his siblings and family. I take each moment as it comes and assess what my kids need. It is scary sometimes to not have a “philosophy” to follow rigidly. There is comfort in having a precise instruction manual. But at this point I can say that the “philosophy” or guru that I follow is me. It’s the little voice inside—not my mind, but my heart—that helps me find ways to teach all my kids that life is hard AND fun. And 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.