We have two children. Allie’s older brother does not have diabetes, but he has generally been pretty understanding about the adjustments that just get made in the family life to accommodate it. You know, we haven’t really changed a lot.
I wrote an article about called Creating a Family Culture of Healthy Eating and the reason I wrote it is because as I looked back, I used a certain number of what I would call “indoctrination techniques”. I did things with the kids like when they were doing their homework, I put on a nutrition video. And of course it’s better to watch TV than do homework, so they watched the whole thing and I remember that being a real turning point for Billy and Abby. I would read them little quotes of things I would find about nutrition when we were at dinner. I would invite people over to talk about the food they liked or we would cook healthy food with people from the neighborhood or friends of mine and the kids would be around to hear our conversations. So I found ways to sort of explain to the kids why we eat the way we eat. Along with the fact that Billy has really good blood sugar control and that feels good to him, so he wants to keep it.
Finding ways to get outside as a family
I think there’s a decision down the line that parents need to make about how much investment they can put in. If Billy’s going to watch a movie then we also make sure then we take a walk afterwards to get him moving. And if we go on a car ride, then we’ll stop if it’s long and we’ll play a game by the side of the road that includes running. I know that parents don’t need more things to do, they’re overwhelmed. But at the same time, I do think that it is important to limit the amount of TV, limit computer use where they’re just sitting still and find ways to get outside as a family and move and be active. It’s another way to really help your whole family be healthy, but also to have your kid have good blood sugar control.
It’s his responsibility to lead the sleigh
I think it was hard at first. It was a big change for everyone. I know in the beginning, Thomas’ brother was like “Oh, well I don’t have diabetes…Why can’t I have this big bowl of ice cream?” I had to take him aside and explain to him how hard it is on Thomas as well. He may not realize this because Thomas has been very good at coping with his diabetes. Very, very rarely ever have I ever heard him complain about having it. He just goes on like a rebel. I tell his brother that it’s his responsibility to lead the sleigh.
She’s only two, but she does know that Immanuel takes his blood sugar. She’s only two so she doesn’t understand. She just knows that Immanuel takes his blood sugar and that’s part of life. Because of dealing with Immanuel, there have been a few times where I’ve taken her blood sugar just because she was been drinking like a fish and that’s one sign of diabetes.
Why him? He’s your favorite one
He complains sometimes. We try to explain it but he’s very smart too so he understands. He still complains, “Why him, why him? He’s your favorite one.” But he’s been much better now.
She wanted to be involved
It was really hard for her in the beginning. With Abby, she has always been the one that was the oldest, got a lot of attention, and she was used to us having a lot of time for her. What happened was after Billy was diagnosed, John and I were so wrapped up in calling the hospital when Billy was 400 or 40 and then waiting, and then trying to count carbohydrates when we were making meals and have his insulin in the syringes. So, we were so blown away by the basics of keeping Billy safe that we didn’t have a lot of time for her and what we learned was to keep her close. Because she was the oldest and because she wanted to be involved, we ended up talking out loud to her. You know, “Abby, we are trying to learn how to count carbohydrates. What’s two plus seven?” and involving her and making her feel important to us like she was helping us. And that ended up meaning we could still stay with what we needed to do.
Diabetes has become part of her life
She went from helping us in the beginning to learning about it. She even came to the hospital with us and sat through all the classes when we first got there. And then she learned how to be his babysitter, which is a big deal for a kid to be able to help her brother. And often times, she would be the one who would notice, “Mom, he looks low” or “He seems really hyper. Do you think he’s high?” So she ended up being really helpful and part of the team and she became his babysitter. Now, I know this summer she’s going to volunteer at a diabetes camp, at Clara Barton and she’s still writing articles for Diabetes Health. So it’s become a part of her life. I would add that she’s healthier than she certainly would have been if he hadn’t been diagnosed. She eats far better than than we used to and we all exercise a lot more than we would have.
Abby was included in all the meetings and the decisions and she definitely has a maternal role towards Billy and she’s very affectionate with him.