I’ve had the opportunity to meet and know so many amazing people since James has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. It has been one of the top blessings of James’ diagnosis, for sure. I love connecting with people either online, though forums and social media groups, or in person at meet-ups and conferences. There is always an instant connection. We always have plenty to talk about, and watching these families deal with something on the level of type 1 diabetes shows me their strength, their wisdom, and their bravery. But that is not to say that we all do things the same way.
Some of the families that I know do things very differently than I do. Because I understand that no two children are alike, no two families are alike, no two circumstances are alike, I try to afford them all the grace they need to be able to do things quite differently than I do. I have to trust that they have their reasons, just as I hope they give my family the same respect and consideration.
I recently met a few families that manage the food aspect of type 1 diabetes quite differently from me. They work hard to give their children low-carb foods for their health. Though we don’t limit carbs in our family, I respect their effort. And I’m learning from them. I’ve learned that there are some foods and some substitutions that are so easy and so good, and they really do have a positive impact on blood sugar. We’ve started incorporating these recipes into our diet, and our lives are better for it.
But I’ve always felt really strongly that I’d like James to feel like he can eat anything. If he wants a donut, a sucker, a piece of cake, I’d like to figure out a way for him to have it. In moderation, of course! (And that word can be more loaded than you might suppose!) While we’re always striving to improve our overall health as a family by eating more fruits and vegetables and constantly trying new foods, we’ve never really limited James or set him apart from the other kids.
To be honest, sometimes I find myself in an interesting predicament. Since James’ diagnosis, I’ve tried to fight some of the more common misperceptions about people with diabetes. Like the idea that “they can’t have sugar” or that they’re really suffering as a result. I don’t think James has ever really felt deprived. Sometimes, I confess I even let him have sugar to spite the image of deprivation that so many people imagine.
And that’s where it gets a bit tricky. My ultra-low-carb and sugar-free D-parent friends are giving their message about what type 1 diabetes means in the life of their children, even as I am sharing the message about my own child — and sometimes those messages are radically different! I can’t tell you how many people have learned from us over the years that “kids with type 1 diabetes can eat anything they want to. They just need to cover it with insulin.” But that is very different from the message they’ll get from my other friends.
Is there a solution here? I think so. It has to come from a conscious attempt to not just give lip service to the idea that all families do things differently but to really honestly try to accept that. My friends are good parents, and they are working closely with their endocrinologists. So am I. That’s what responsible diabetes parents do. If we come up with different solutions, we need to feel free to implement them to best benefit our kids without feeling upset or conflicted.
The solution is always sincere respect, rational discussion, and courageous advocacy. We need to trust ourselves to be able to come up with the best ways to parent with diabetes and grant that same measure of trust to the families of other children with diabetes that we come to know and love.
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.