Letter to a Type 1 Mom

As a woman with Type 1 diabetes, I’m often asked for advice from moms who have teenage daughters with Type 1. I’m always conflicted about giving advice, because I know what it’s like to live with Type 1, but I don’t know what it’s like to parent a child with Type 1. So I try to think about what my parents did for me and my sister when we were teenagers, and I try to think about what I would do if one of my three sons were diagnosed.

Recently, a friend of a friend e-mailed me because her daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 several months ago. She said her daughter was adjusting, but she was still struggling. She was trying not to let her daughter see that she was struggling, but I could sense the fear and anxiety in her words.

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I wrote back that it’s terrible to see our children suffer and to feel helpless. There’s nothing worse. I wrote that it was OK to feel scared and helpless and that I know a lot of parents who feel the same way. I’ve heard so many stories about parents waking up throughout the night to monitor their child’s blood sugar, parents who stand on the sidelines of soccer games with a backpack full or supplies, parents who give themselves injections so they can understand their child’s pain, parents whose kitchens are transformed into science labs, and parents who are always on guard. It’s scary and exhausting and the job is never done.

Diabetes is tricky, too, because it can fool you into thinking you can “control” it with food and exercise and technology, but we are never fully in control of our bodies. I say this because I see so many parents of Type 1s who try hard to feel like they are in control, and this mission takes over their lives. My parents went in the complete opposite direction and gave me too much freedom, but I’d like to believe there’s a middle ground. A place where you can provide your child with the tools and education to help her manage her blood sugars, but also one that doesn’t overwhelm her.

My heart goes out to parents of kids with Type 1. I think one of the hardest things for all parents to do, whether your child has diabetes or anxiety or autism or ADHD or any other physical and emotional challenge, is to walk the line between keeping them safe and letting them grow.

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