Each One, Reach One
Connecting with another parent can be a rewarding experience.
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
March 2007 — Pay it forward. It was a great movie based on a simple but amazing concept, a concept that if you ask me has everything to do with parenting a child with diabetes. The premise is that you do something good for someone else to "pay it forward" and keep the cycle of positive things going. This month, I found myself being on the giving end of a pay it forward for a Mom with a newly diagnosed child. It sounds like such a natural thing. Who wouldn't offer support to a newly diagnosed family dealing with this difficult diagnosis? But there are so many reasons a person may not reach out to someone under these circumstances: not being aware of the person or child; not feeling comfortable introducing yourself to a stranger or broaching the subject; not wanting to butt in on something so personal and difficult; not wanting to feel vulnerable yourself or face your own emotions; the list goes on and on. But I am writing this column on this subject in hopes that each person who reads it will pay it forward themselves when they find the opportunity. Speaking from my own experience, it was unbelievable to me how much I benefited from doing it, and how much it took me back to the first weeks after my son was diagnosed.
When I think back to those early days of Joel being diagnosed, I can't imagine not having at least one other Mom who had gone through it to talk to. It made such a difference to me to know I wasn't alone in such a tangible way, talking to another Mom who had been where I was, seeing that another child in my son's school had diabetes, finding support online and in my own community, etc. When I recently found out there was another child who had just been diagnosed at my son's school, it would have been impossible for me NOT to reach out to her. Of course everyone's comfort level is different when it comes to introducing themselves to a stranger and telling them that your child has the same horrible disease that they now have to deal with. It seems like it would be so difficult to do, but I would have found it so difficult NOT to do. Once I made the call and introduced myself and told her why I was calling, it was so much easier for both of us than I had expected. We just couldn't stop talking. We shared so many similarities among our kids, feelings, and experiences that it wasn't like talking to a stranger at all. And if there were things I had been through that could benefit her, I wanted her to know that I was here to share them with her. As we talked about the school nurse, other issues at school, how to handle the school bus, play dates, and many other subjects that she were her immediate concern, I think we both forgot all about the fact that we really didn't know each other.
It seems like only yesterday that I was the one on the receiving end of a diabetes "pay it forward" when another Mom made a similar phone call to me. In the time since that phone call, I have learned a lot about parenting a child with diabetes. Much of it came from books, doctors, nurses, and seminars. But how I parent my child on a daily basis came from how much I have grown and what I have learned about myself in that time. These things have come from the emotional support and unbelievable strength I have gotten from my best friend, my husband, my family, and mostly from my son. When I think back to when he was diagnosed, all I can really remember about him was the intense bravery and strength he had. I guess I decided then that I had to try to be at least half as brave as my 7-year-old. I'm sure that every parent would say that how they coped with parenting a child newly diagnosed with diabetes was different. Each experience is unique, yet the same. Don't we owe it to each other to share that experience? If we each choose to do that, whether it is through reaching out to a newly diagnosed family in our community or at a support group for parents, maybe we will hear something from another parent that we want to try to do better ourselves. And maybe we even hear something that we want to make sure we never do ourselves. Either way, we benefit from the sharing.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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