What's Right with Mommy?
with Amy Tenderich
In her column titled “When Mommy Has Diabetes,” Deanna Glick recently wrote about her worries over her toddler daughter’s level of “comfort with my biggest flaw.”
I must say I was kind of stunned by this view. I don’t see my condition vis-a-vis my three daughters this way at all. That’s partly because I don’t really consider diabetes to be my biggest flaw (I’m chronically impatient, an interrupter, rather snappy at times, you get the idea…), and partly because for our family, diabetes really has become a new kind of normal .
I guess I like to focus on what’s right with mommy, and not what’s wrong with her. I eat carefully, exercise a lot, and am diligent with my medications.
Admittedly, my girls are older now than when I first wrote about being a mommy with diabetes (currently ages 10, 8 and 4). And I’ve learned to let them absorb the unpleasant stuff in their own natural way. Was there a Second World War? Yes. Was it horrible and gruesome? Yes. Should I hide it from them, or eat my heart out about their “comfort level” with it? No. The world is what it is…
Here’s an example that’s closer to home:
About a year ago, one of the parent diabetes bloggers wrote about his mixed-faith family (dad Jewish, mom Christian), and how they’d decided to bring their girls up Jewish. At the holidays, however, he agonized over “thrusting this alternative faith” on his kids.
I happen to be Jewish with a non-Jewish partner, and we’re bringing up our girls in a Jewish home. It would never cross my mind to use the term “thrusting.” Suffice it to say that when we walk by Santa at the shopping mall and the helpers call out for my kids to come sit on his lap, they shout out with glee: “No Thanks! We’re Jewish People!!” And we all burst out laughing. Is it always easy for them to be Jewish in a predominantly Christian world? Hell no. But I never agonize over their “comfort level” with it. We are who we are. That’s our normal.
Another example, even closer to home:
My 10-year-old came home from camp last week reporting that a boy there confronted her with some goofy toy, shouting, “Here’s my mutant ninja bunny with diabetes!”
“Do even you even know what diabetes is?” she asked.
Apparently he rolled his eyes around a bit and shrugged. She took that as a no… and she was very proud that she does know what the disease is, and knows enough to understand that “mutant diabetes bunny” isn’t such a funny game.
My girls have seen me on bad high days, ranting and raving over my headaches and soaring numbers. They’ve watched me during the lows, groping for my meter on the floor of an Old Navy store, or pulling the car over to search for glucose tabs with shaking hands. Such is life with diabetes.
I’m certainly not into manufacturing “tough love” for the sake of it, but I think it’s incredibly important for kids to learn to deal with the unpleasant stuff.
Child psychologist Madeline Levine points out that in today’s world of overprotective and overindulgent parenting , the biggest disservice we’re doing our kids is “buying into the myth that (their) self-esteem depends on never having even the slightest adversity, upset or setback.” How will they be able to handle disappointments and heartache later on if they grow up in a protective bubble?
Maybe it’s like the hygiene hypothesis, that says bringing up kids in an ever-more-sterile environment forces their untrained immune system to go haywire later on in life. The immune system has never learned to deal with adversity.
Maybe awareness of my disease will force my kids to grow up a little faster, but in a good way. I would argue that most of the children who have diabetes themselves emerge as strong and mature young adults – not that we’d wish that on anybody.
In the end, your kids take their cues from you. They’re only going to be upset by your diabetes if you highlight it as your biggest flaw. The way I see it, I’m just a sometimes-grumpy mommy working hard to control my diabetes so my kids won’t ever have to experience the really bad stuff with me. But maybe someday they will anyway. If and when that happens, I want them to be strong enough and well-equipped to deal with that kind of adversity.
* Amy Tenderich is co-author of the new book, Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes.
Read more about Amy Tenderich.
dLife's Daily Living columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team to find out what will work best for you.
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