Have you ever tried to explain to a young child what Diabetes is? Not an easy task, especially when you take all the good, the bad and the ugly into consideration. My biggest fear when Nathan was born was the possibility that in a few short years, he would be diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes himself and would have to deal with many of the same difficulties that I had. Since Type-1 Diabetes does involve an inherently genetic component, it’s a very real fear and one that I wasn’t looking forward to having him deal with.
Those fears were somewhat put to rest a year or two ago when we had him tested and found no issues with his immune system and insulin production. We were warned that there was still a few years of risk involved, but as it stood he was free and clear. Now, if we can be so lucky with his younger brother, Alex, I’ll be a happy camper. Dealing with the disease affected and altered my childhood in ways that I can’t help but make me wonder how life might have been different for me if I HADN’T been diagnosed. But I digress…
I don’t think I need to point out how many moving parts and components there are to the effective daily control of Type-1 Diabetes. It can be overwhelmingly irresistible for a young child to see all the equipment and electronics involved and they’ll no doubt want to touch, see and play with everything there. The important part is to be honest and not try to sugar-coat any of the details (see what I did there?).
In Nathan’s case, I’ve always been very honest and explained everything in plain language. One of the unexpected benefits to that level of honesty, is that he’s been exposed to seeing blood drawn since the day he was born. I consider this a benefit because he doesn’t have the same fear of blood that most other children do, be it mine or his own. He’ll acknowledge pain, of course. But if he’s bleeding, the blood in and of itself isn’t an issue for him.
I remember dating a girl who already had a son that was about Nathan’s age now. And if he’d scrape his knee and a bit of blood would show, he’d basically blow up and have a panic attack. Although one can understand that children view things differently than adults, even I have to admit that it was a bit much. That’s why I’m happy that Nathan has grown to be desensitized to certain things as a result of having a Diabetic father.
The biggest challenge I’ve face with Nathan, and now his brother Alex, is my insulin pump. When you have a baby sitting in your lap and he’s looking around and grabbing at everything in sight, an infusion set can be a temptation for those little hands. It took a bit of time as well as trial and error, for Nathan to understand bot to touch “Daddy’s Ouchy,” and to leave the pump alone.; something that I am now working at making Alex understand, as well.
The important thing, as I mentioned earlier, is to use plain language and explain things as they actually are. Nathan has seen photos of a pancreas, he knows it helps with the regulation of glucose in the blood through the release of insulin and he’s aware that my pancreas no longer produces insulin, which is why I need to have it artificially injected through the pump. He’s also made his peace with the fact that certain fast-acting sugared goods are for Daddy only, when my blood sugar drops. He’s not a fan of that last one, but he gets it.
Nathan has held all of my Diabetic equipment and supplies in some way, shape or form and has even had the opportunity to press buttons on my pump (with my guidance) in order to see what everything does. By doing this and ensuring his understanding, there’s less risk of him sneaking into my desk and messing around with my Diabetes equipment. But the nice thing is that although he doesn’t like them, Nathan has less fear of needles than the average kid, since he’s been around them and has watched me injecting myself since he was born. Educating is always better than forbidding. ☯