Having children is an experience all its own. Some good, some bad and some memorable, they make life interesting in ways that nothing else can. Most parents dread the day that they’ll need to have “the talk” with their kids. The “talk” referring mostly to the birds and the bees and where babies come from. With my oldest son Nathan, I’ve been fortunate enough that he’s been able to observe my wife’s pregnancy and his baby brother’s gestation through to his birth. So he’s very aware that babies grow in mommy’s tummy, although not what GOT him there. (One battle at a time, people!)
But the talk I’m referring to, is the one where Diabetes needs to be explained. For someone afflicted with Type-1 Diabetes, having children brings on its own batch of concerns and worries. For example, the prospect that your child may have Type-1, as well. I’ve been fortunate thus far that my oldest son, Nathan, is showing no signs of being diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes. He certainly eats like he hasn’t got a care in the world!
But one of the issues I’ve had to face in recent years is explaining Diabetes and the reason behind it. I started pump therapy while Nathan was still an infant, so in the years that followed I had to start being mindful of his grubby little paws clawing at my tubing and grabbing at the pump. We’ve come to humorously refer to my pump as my “ouchie”, and Nathan has grown up understanding not to touch it under any circumstances and to be mindful not to sit/step or grab on or around it when we’re horsing around.
A few days ago I was behind my house doing some yard work. Nathan was playing contently in the dirt and it was a beautiful day. As luck (and bad timing) would have it, I started experiencing a low, right when I was in the middle of doing a task. I tested using my Freestyle Libre and sure enough, I was in the mid 3’s!
As is his norm, it took him less than five minutes to realize I had left the back yard and to seek me out in my home office. He immediately noticed that I was feasting on some jelly beans to treat my low. He asked if my blood sugar was low, to which I replied that it was. He asked me if he could have some jelly beans as well. Not wanting to have a five-year old Tasmanian Devil bouncing off the walls, I declined to let him partake… which pissed him off to no end!
He got upset and said it wasn’t “fair” that I got to eat candy whenever I wanted and he couldn’t (which is ironic as it’s pretty much the opposite). This is when it dawned on me that although he understands to be careful around my medical devices, he may not be inherently aware of why I have them. I decided that it was now time to explain why I wear a pump and exactly what Diabetes is.
I started by using Google to bring up a diagram of the human body with the pancreas highlighted. I explained that when someone eats, the pancreas works to control the amount of sugar in the blood (a bit on the simplistic side, but come on! He’s five!) If you have too little or too much sugar in the blood, the pancreas adjusts it for you. But my pancreas doesn’t function properly, so the pump does the job for my pancreas.
Since the pancreas is a natural part of one’s body, it knows how to adjust and balance things. Since my pump is a machine, sometimes mistakes are made, which is why I have to occasionally eat sugared foods to bring my blood sugar up. And jelly beans are usually the easiest and fastest way for me to do it. If I allowed Nathan to consume my jelly beans, I wouldn’t have them in the event that I suffered a low, which was why I couldn’t share them.
To my surprise, he took everything I told him pretty well. He even repeated some details back, which indicated his understanding. All in all, I was pretty happy and proud that he understood. We also briefly discussed that if he ever saw Daddy going to sleep suddenly or being unable to move, to run for Mommy right away for help. His attention and understanding were rewarded with the sharing of one jelly bean from my pile, which made him happy and sent back on his way.
It can be hard to give kids credit where credit is due. We assume that because of their young age, they may not necessarily understand. But allowing oneself to provide even a rudimentary explanation can take some of the anxiety and concern away, especially if your kids ever see you in the throws of a bad low or having to call for help. It won’t eliminate the worry of seeing a parent carted off in an ambulance, but explaining can at least stem some of it. If the sex talk turns out to be this easy for Nathan, I can breathe easy… Although somehow I doubt I’ll be THAT lucky! ☯