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Guest Post: Parenting Passions.

I first met Bennet ... wait a second, where did I first meet Bennet and the rest of the Dunlap crew?  Where ever it was, I've had so much love and respect for the Dunlap family for years.  They're a team, and a good one. And despite the fact that half of the Dunlap crew is living with diabetes, it doesn't dictate or define who they are.  Today, I'm so happy - honored, really - to be hosting a guest post from Bennet about parenting diabetes.

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Team Dunlap at Disney

My goal of parenting kids with diabetes is to make their passion in life the my first priority and to bring diabetes along as second. I don’t profess to be the model parent or a expert in diabetes (but I have a little background in both, as we have two type 1 teens, who, for the most part, talk to us).

In my view, type 1 has to come second to living life. Not ignored, but in its place. I am not saying it is easy. It takes hard work to get it there. Here is a tip to knowing that you are on the right track: You forget the diabetes and do some other parenting issue, like rush to school late without a shot.

Normally, new diabetes parents kick themselves for forgetting the insulin. They pile on the guilt and have a lousy time. I know I did. I know the day we discovered a second diagnosis of type 1 in the family, we forgot to give the kid who already was a year into it his insulin.

I suggest that in that "forgetting," there is room for a small pat on the back, too. Diabetes was second. Ideally not everyone forgets the insulin like I did. Yes, I still had to get the insulin into who ever needed it. But pause and think about the "new normal" that this represents; something other than diabetes was more important.  (Well okay, not the case of a second diagnosis. There, diabetes made me forget diabetes but in the school case, life and goals were at least equally pressing.)

I think it is okay to say to yourself as a parent, "I will help manage diabetes. It will continue to suck but it may not be all consuming. I will always worry about diabetes but  I will pass the responsibility of managing as my child is ready for it. In all of that, I will not lose sight of the goal."

Our pre-diabetes goals for our kids were: college, a passion in life, a job in that field, and mostly having them moving out of our house. Why would diabetes change those? If the goals have changed, diabetes wins.

Don’t let it win.

Be involved with your kids passions. Our younger T1D is in the process of defining her passions. I think adolescence is brutal enough without blood sugar variations but she has both. She is also delightfully creative. She draws, paints, makes wearable replications of anime robotic prosthetics (Comic Con here she comes) and is learning to sew. Diabetes doesn’t fall into the passion category. That is cool. Maybe, as we work on the creative stuff, the idea that more creativity flows with incrementally better diabetes effort will become part of the process.

The older kid with diabetes is a performer, an actor. He has been since he was knee-high. He would watch the Princess Bride as a tyke and act out all the heroic parts, about a quarter second before they came on screen. I bet that movie is so ingrained into him that he would still involuntarily twitch at cues to some of the scenes.

No effing way would I let diabetes change those passions. Keeping the acting dream alive meant putting diabetes into second place. In part, that meant going to Children With Diabetes’ Friends For Life and having Jim Vail challenge the boy to become confident in his self-management. It meant learning to check blood before driving. Then learning to drive into Philadelphia for acting classes. (It also meant having the car towed for illegal parking on the first solo mission into the city.) All those things contribute, in some way, to the goal of acting. I think the same will be true as the creative sewing, drawing interest are distilled into the younger one's passion.

In auditions for college acting programs, my son was asked about a hard life lesson learned. "Let me tell you about type 1 diabetes," he replied. I hope his sister will have an equal, if different, love of life, an inspiring portfolio of original work, and the feeling that diabetes is not preventing that passion.

I think my son feels that part of caring for the character on stage means caring for the actor giving the performance. Sometimes I see a little pump tubing sneaking out of a costume at a show. What I see is a performance and that type 1 diabetes is being dragged along, second to his passion. As for colleges, he has been accepted to every program he has auditioned for. I assume because his passion is visible to others in ways as clear and hopefully as subtle as pump tubing is to me.

I hope that while her diabetes may vary, my daughter the same feeling about her life’s loves.

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Bennet and his wife Kimball have are the parents of four kids. The younger two are type 1 teens. The youngest was diagnosed in a Disney World hotel. That the family somehow worked out a relatively uninterrupted vacation in Disney while starting her life with diabetes speaks to their priorities.

Bennet tries to help families live better with diabetes. He is an ADA Safe at School advocate. He writes the blog Your Diabetes Many Vary, created the site DisneyWithDiabetes, and with his kids produces the videos at TheBetesNOW. If you happen to know anyone looking a passionate advocate for diabetes families, Bennet is finishing a masters degree in health communications at Boston University in a few months.


Yes! Exactly. This is soooooo the way I raised my now young adult with Type 1. It's hard to do as a parent (easier to just lock them up and keep them "safe") but so much the wiser, braver choice. BTW the first time I forgot a dose I called the endo and said something like "Forgive me Doctor for I have sinned" and his response was "Congratulations! Forgetting that shot means you are getting busy living your lives again!" I loved that endo! Hope to meet your family one day. Inspirational.

Thanks for this post. It's something I needed to read :) I love the fact that there is another parent who forgets to get their kid to dose when in a rush to get out to school in the morning. Life should get in the way of diabetes, not the other way around. But at the same time knowing that diabetes takes priority...properly in its place.

Thanks for inviting met as a guest, it is a pleasure. As I recall, we first met at a FDA session at Friends for Life. Somehow that seems appropriate years later.

Setting a great example, Bennet (You seem like a decent fellow!).

Your moment of forgetfulness reminds me a bit of the time we gave Lia a shot of saline solution instead of insulin because we got the two bottles mixed up. We learned though and have been lucky/fortunate/whatever enough to stay focused on the prize, which is discovering and creating a passionate, productive life, if for no other reason than—borrowing again from Inigo Montoya—there is not a lot of money in revenge.

Well said, Bennet! Thank you and your family for sharing your story and insight. It's a wondering model to which we aspire.

I can confirm from personal experience that the Dunlap family ROCKS. Bennet and Kimball are, in my opinion, experts at raising kids who know how to live their life with diabetes without diabetes ruling their life. And it's kind of unfair, actually, because all four of them are incredibly talented in their chosen crafts. It's just not fair :)

I love this post, and the person who wrote it! Bennet is a wise dude.

Awesome, awesome post Bennett. You have an amazing family.

I come from a family where 2 of the 3 kids got Type 1. My brother in 1993 and me two years later in 1995. We were both 12 at diagnosis. We too had parents like Bennet and Kimball. A day after my diagnosis we were in the car driving 4 hours to see my Grandparents - the trip was not getting cancelled. Over our teenage years my brother and I both worked part-time jobs, went to sleepovers, participated in countless sports and activities in high school, went to college (both out of state) and traveled internationally. Our parents raised us the same as our little sister. Diabetes has never defined our family or what my brother or I could achieve in life - and it never will.

Thank you for this wonderful article. We have a 3yr old daughter with T1 diabetes that was diagnosed at 17 months and we often find that life revolves around diabetes. This article has given me a different outlook on my approach to parenting a T1 diabetic.

What a great post. I also am a parent of a type 1. Our motto was "Life is to be lived. If you take care of your diabetes, you can do and be anything you want." I like where you said "don't let diabetes win." Our pediatrician told us right off, if you fight diabetes, it will win. If you test your bg, eat right, exercise, etc., you will be able to do anything. Run a marathon, go on trips without your parents as chaperons, have sleep overs, and anything else your heart desires. Thank you for a great article.

oh bennet, thank you for the gift of perspective. i so appreciate you sharing your experiences for those of us parents coming up behind you.

Ohhhhhh thank you. Im at a point in my life and my daughter diabetic life that sometimes I dont know what to do to help her. I needed this story and I know I need to stop being so hard on myself. A1C at 12.2 and all I want is my daughter to live her life and be happy (but keep an eye on her diabetes). Something isnt working and i dont know how to fix it.

"Type 1 has to come second to living life." Well put! And a goal I've been working toward since my diagnosis last summer. Thank you for your inspiring post!

Sounds like you have a good perspective on what's most important. Not that your ignoring it but not letting it rule their lives and yours. Must success to you and your childrens dreams.

Bennet, you have brought tears to my eyes! I continue to be amazed by you and your family and am so grateful to work with you and C. Thank you for sharing your perspective here today (and at our mtg this afternoon). Your KWDs and non-PWD-kids are lucky to have such a caring father, and also one who helps remind them of what's really important! Best to y'all!

Kerri and Bennet -

I am pretty sure that we all met at the same time. I mean I know I was in the same FDA session as Kerri at our first Friends for Life conference.


Also, this was taken at the same conference - http://www.flickr.com/photos/saraknic/2712610016/.


Wow, what a great guest post. My son was diagnosed a year ago next month and some days I have caught myself 'forgeting' to put diabetes first and yes, giving myself that little pat on the back while rushing to give him his Lantus 2 hours late!!! Of late it has been very hard work for him and us emotionally but your contribution has made me see there will be light once again at the end of the tunnel. Diabetes will always be there, but not always hog first place.

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