Back to Parents' Voices Clare Pattison

Family Matters

We really tried to support with our child's condition, but we found it very hard. Although we couldn't see it at the time, we were both stressed out and very tired. What with the diabetes care and dealing with our other two children, we just didn't have anything left for each other. It was a really tough time in our marriage. But we didn't give up. Instead, we got help. We saw the counsellor on the diabetes team, and just talking about things showed us how much we really did love each other. It also let me see how he was feeling which I hadn't been able to see before. It still took a while, but things did get better. Now we look back on it as something that strengthened our relationship.

On our way home from the hospital in Saskatoon, I was thinking about our grass that would need to be cut and raked up. I informed my husband, son and daughter that we would be doing it after supper. My diabetic son said, "I won't be helping because I have diabetes." Well, I set him straight. I said, "Yes, you have diabetes, but you will still have to do your chores, clean your room, and cut and rake grass. That hasn't changed!" My son has never used diabetes to get out of anything again. This was a very important conversation, and it was great to get it straightened out before we got home.

We have a had a conflict in our house because I feel that everyone who deals with our son should know he is diabetic. It takes a lot of the stress and worry away from me when he is at school or swimming lessons or at the mall if I know that the people he is with are aware of his condition. Unfortunately, he strongly feels that it invades his privacy and makes him stick out. It has taken us a long time to reach a solution we can both live with, although neither one of us is completely happy with it. I guess the positive side to this is that we are still able to talk about how we feel openly with each other. Relating to teens is hard enough without diabetes!

Our daughter was 14 at diagnosis and did her own needles and tests right from the start. It was so very tempting to check up on her and nag at her all the time about what she was and was not doing. I know she resents having to do it at all, and I have to keep reminding myself that even though it is her disease, she didn't ask for it! I really try to back off and make suggestions rather than coming on too strong. She knows how she will feel if she goes off her meal plan, and she learns from her own experiences. Guiding her rather than giving her orders has kept our relationship in much better shape, and she often does ask my advice and discuss her decisions with me.

We reached a milestone in our daughter's diabetes when she had just turned 2 years old. She was diagnosed just after her first birthday, and throughout that first year when people asked us how she was coping with the disease, we always said that she didn't really know what was going on yet. Well, one evening we were in Boston Pizza and she said to the waitress, "I have diet coke. I diabetic." My wife and I both couldn't speak because of the lumps in our throats. Up until then, we didn't realize she knew.

When all this starting happening to our child, I made a solemn vow to never, never, never cause her any pain through spanking her, or yelling at her or treating her badly ever, ever, ever. She had to go through so much pain every day that I knew I would not ever add to it in any way.

You can probably guess what really happened. I was too patient. I was too understanding. I was too unreal with her that one day, I lost my temper (violently erupted would be a better term) while giving her injection. I ranted and raved like a lunatic that she had *@#$& well better sit still because this was the way it was going to be for the rest of her %$#@!#* life and I wasn't going to put up with any *&^%$# any more!!!!!!! The rest of the family cautiously peeked around the corner to see if it was really me screeching in there.

I'm not proud of how I behaved, (and I hope she never repeats all the *&^%# she learned that day) but it really taught me something about myself and about our relationship. I'm not a perfect parent - never was. Trying to be someone other than myself was so unnatural. She is not a perfect child. Having diabetes doesn't make her any different than she was before. She is one of the family just like everyone else.

Since that day, we have definitely come a long way to returning to normal family life. And now we can all even laugh about the day Mom swore a blue streak in the bathroom.

When our youngest child was born, we had a rough year with our 3 1/2 year old daughter who was extremely jealous of all the attention the baby got. She had to be watched around the baby in case she hurt her and she needed lots of extra attention away from the baby. Guess what. Two months after she finally got over the jealousy, her baby sister was diagnosed with diabetes. Once again, we had a BIG problem, but this time we didn't have the same energy to cope with it.

Instead of trying to give the older child more attention which we just couldn't manage, we involved her in her sister's care. At four, she could set up the glucose monitor, open the wipes, get the insulin out of the fridge. She could also kiss all the owies better as only a child can. It wasn't a perfect solution, but it certainly made her an important part of the team. Now, two years later, she is a very caring and loving big sister (most of the time!) And she is also the best watchdog for stopping other people from feeding her sister!

I reached a point with our son after about 4 months of dealing with diabetes where I had become his nurse, and he was my patient. Everything I did for him related entirely to his diabetes. He needed food to stay on his meal plan. He needed to sleep exactly on schedule so that his snacks were precisely on time. If he was tired, it had to be because his blood sugars were too high. If he was cranky, it must be because his blood sugars had dropped too low. Somehow, I had stopped being his mommy, and stopped thinking of him as my little boy. His diabetes always came first.

Then one day, he was out of sorts all morning, and finally ended up having a temper tantrum. Instead of dealing with it as I would have with my other children, I held him down and gave him a blood test right in the middle of it! Can you believe it? When the test result was perfectly normal, I suddenly realized what I had been doing to him for months. What he needed most from me was to be his mommy. To love him, and care for him, and, yes, to deal with his diabetes.

I realized that he has good moods and bad moods just like anyone else. He sometimes has tantrums because that's what three-year-olds do! Maybe his behaviour will sometimes be affected by his diabetes, but it certainly doesn't control every aspect of his body, mind, and soul. Now I am his mommy FIRST and his nurse SECOND and he, I, and the whole family are much, much happier.

We learned very early on not to attach judgemental words to our daughter's blood test results. When we called them good tests and bad tests, she would automatically think that she was being praised or scolded. It led to her lying about her test results when they were out of target range so that we wouldn't be mad at her. Now we just call them "in range, low, and high". When the tests are low or high, we just say, "Things are a little out of balance today. What can we do about it?"

We also changed how we dealt with food. At first, we called it "cheating" when she ate something she shouldn't have, now we call it "going off her meal plan." I've dieted many times, and I know what a killer guilt can be to motivation.

It seems like a little thing, but choosing neutral words instead of judgemental ones has created a better atmosphere in our house. It makes it easier to talk when things are not going well, or she is having trouble staying on her meal plan. But best of all, it has separated diabetes, the disease from our daughter, the person.

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Last Updated: Wednesday March 16, 2005 16:44:52
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