“Pump! Pump, pump, pump! Pump, where are you?”
It’s his siren call, yelled at full volume as my toddler forages around in my top trying to find my insulin pump. “Oh hi, pump! One … two … three!” and the buttons are pressed and the beeps are beeped and I’m constantly checking to make sure he hasn’t given me a bolus.
I told him the other day that there’s “insulin” in my pump, which made him nod sagely. “Insuwin,” he replied, putting his finger deftly into my ear.
Parenting with diabetes is a trip. It’s this weird dance of making sure the mischief of my diabetes is managed well enough so that I can play with my kids without tipping over. The majority of the time, diabetes isn’t a parenting hurdle, but there are plenty of moments when I trip over my blood sugars. Especially now, with the hard-earned circus of two kids.
In my house, I have an eight year old and an almost-two year old. Both kids are mobile, both kids talk, and both kids have opinions and preferences that don’t always line up with one another. Their gentle ribbons of chaos wind around the unpredictable pole of diabetes nonsense and we become this mixed metaphor of a maypole. I’m trying to raise my kids while wrangling diabetes, and I’m not great at doing both all the time. We make it sort of work (thankfully they get along really well at the moment), but these days, the activity level is usually amped to 11 because whatever we’re doing always includes movement. As a result, my lows have been on the unpredictable side because I can’t predict if the little Guy will want to sit still and read a book or if he wants to tear down the aisles of the library touching all the books and asking to listen to The Pancake Song on repeat.
My son is learning about diabetes similarly to how I taught my daughter – repeated, gentle exposure to the visible management bits. One of my son’s first words was “pump,” and it remains the best tool I have in my parenting arsenal to keep him from rolling off the diaper changing table. He’s also recently learned the word “Dexcom,” as a result of the mantra, “Careful – Mommy’s Dexcom is right there” as he climbs all over my legs and threatens to pull off my sensors. This morning, there was a mostly-consumed juice box on my bathroom counter that my son sauntered in, grabbed, and finished off before I could stop him.
He was delighted by the reward at the end of this scavenger hunt o’ maternal hypoglycemia.
Explaining to him that a symptom of low blood sugar might be his mom bursting frustratedly into tears will take some time. Or that a sustained high blood sugar might make me exhausted, and short-tempered. Or that diabetes has a number of IFs, ANDs, and BUT …s to it. My daughter only recently began to understand that concept. The nuances of diabetes takes some time for kids to understand.
… takes a long time for adults to understand, too.
Explaining diabetes to my kids is a lifelong journey. They’ll grow up thinking that diabetes is normal, that it’s something mom handles and needs help with here and there but isn’t classified as “a huge deal” because at the moment, the chaos is controlled.
And that’s where my hard work and hope intersect: I hope diabetes is always a small deal, with most of the work and responsibility on my plate, without too many other health issues in play. I am motivated to continue to try because I want diabetes to remain small. And I hope that growing up with a mother who has health concerns will teach my children something good, you know?
It starts with stealing their fruit snacks, but my hope is that it becomes patience, empathy, and compassion.