It’s 2 a.m. and I’m sitting in bed sweaty... there’s molasses everywhere. I played hard with the boys last night and it caught up to me.
Out of context, that sounds like a strange night. For a child growing up with type 1 diabetes, this was part of the world I knew. On a few occasions, I can vividly recall waking up to one of my parents standing next to me with a look of desperation and fear as their child comes out of a diabetic coma. And molasses all over the place.
It’s not often that I share my experiences about growing up with type 1 diabetes because - and it took me awhile to realize this - I’ve never wanted it to be seen as an excuse for anything or for others to pity me. I was just another kid with my own set of challenges and I couldn’t change the cards in my hand, so I just dealt with it.
Growing up as a child with diabetes since the age of 3 was certainly interesting. I was on strict diets, had to prick my finger several times a day to check blood sugars and took needles to deliver insulin. When high school came around, having to sneak away in to the boys washroom to take a needle without being seen certainly didn’t help with the need to fit in and be normal during…. like… the most important part of your life. Let’s just say that I had a few awkward run ins while leaning over the counter with a needle in my arm.
And while dealing with diabetes as a child was certainly difficult, only now as a parent am I able to appreciate what my own parents had to endure. We all know how hectic parenthood can be with afterschool sports, homework, daycare schedules, and preparing dinner with a "hangry" 3-year-old clawing at your legs. Add to this mix the parents who are constantly second guessing themselves and needing to ensure that their crying child isn’t just hangry, but maybe is having a diabetic reaction or any other type of health complication!
One thing that I’ve been able to reflect on in my adulthood is that I took for granted the things my parents did for me – truly. Outside of everyday diabetic care, the competitive sports I played several times a week required a high level of energy and organization from my parents. On top of the normal scheduling required, they also needed to ensure that diabetic supplies were on hand and that my blood sugars were always where they needed to be before, during, and after sports.
Now, as father to a 3-year-old with a severe peanut allergy, I can begin to appreciate what is means to care for a child who has a health concern. Tristan, my boy, is an energetic kid who (like many other children) loves to run ahead of mom and dad in order to get to the playground a few seconds faster.
For most parents this wouldn’t be a concern. For a parent with a child who is anaphylactic to peanuts, it elicits a bit of anxiety with the uncertainty of what that kid in the red sweater walking towards Tristan is eating. Or whether that girl who just went down the slide with Tristan has peanut butter & jelly hands from the sandwich she ate on the way to the park. I keep having to tell myself "just keep an eye on him Colin, he’s good". Sounds pretty paranoid, doesn’t it?
When my wife and I decided that have kids, our thoughts about the type of parents we would be were much different. We never thought we'd be the parents who keep an overly vigilant eye and ear out for our child whenever we go out in public. We’ve rushed him to the hospital once already after (very) light contact with peanuts, and it’s something I would really like to avoid a second time.
Parenthood presents different challenges for us all. Not one dad here can fully relate to another’s challenges or their family’s situation, and yet can offer support just the same – we are all very much different, but all share the same responsibility and love for our children.
I guess if there is one take-away from this particular blog post, it’s that I’d like to offer an additional kudos to all the parents out there with their own respective health-related challenges.
Your child might not fully appreciate or understand what you do now, and it might seem like too much to deal with at times, but maybe one day, they too will reflect as a parent and thank you, for the first time, from a place of experience.
Keep on being awesome, Dads!
Colin Dambrauskas DCL Member