Educating my child about diabetes
I’m Jaime, a Medtronic employee, and a parent living with diabetes.
We taught our daughter how to call 9-1-1 when she was three years old.
We taught her that if “Mama ever fell down and didn’t get back up” that she needed to get some fruit snacks or juice and call 9-1-1 right away.
She was three years old, and I was asking her to potentially save my life.
Explaining my diabetes to our daughter meant being vulnerable in a way that I have never been before. It meant teaching her that sometimes Mama might need her help. Sometimes Mama has high and low blood sugars and that I need a drug called insulin to survive.
Living with diabetes
I find myself at times trying to protect her from the drudgery of the disease. We make runs to the pharmacy to pick up my insulin. She understands that we have to have certain snacks in the house for my lows and she knows that I might need to take a break when we’re doing an activity to check my blood glucose levels.
But she doesn’t know that I worry about diabetes taking me away from her.
She doesn’t see how guilty I feel about the burden placed on her little shoulders. Having to stand on her tiptoes to get my gummy bears and sitting down on the floor with me while I treat. Talking to Daddy on speakerphone to reassure him that Mama’s OK.
She doesn’t know that I try to keep myself in range at all times so I’m healthier for her.
She doesn’t know how bad I feel that diabetes has stolen me away during countless moments in her childhood.
She doesn’t know how bad I felt when my pump alarmed during her dance recital.
She doesn’t see the anxiety, stress, or the guilt that comes with treating lows—I mean how many parents other than those with type 1 diabetes have to steal their kid’s Easter candy to treat low blood sugars?
Fostering a strong empathetic child
My heart broke into a million pieces when she asked me: “Mama, what if I get diabetes too?” I told her that she was strong, brave, and she would have the best person in the world to help her (me!). What my daughter didn’t know was that the night she was born, I whispered a silent prayer up to the heavens.
“Please. Not her too.”
But I do believe she is more empathetic and compassionate because of my diabetes.
She’s more in tune with other’s feelings and much more inclusive to people who are living with chronic illness.
My daughter is becoming a little advocate in her own right! Rightly calling out TV shows that misstate that the character with diabetes “needs insulin” because they are experiencing low blood sugar. She’s quick to correct when people make comments about what people with diabetes can or can’t do.
Setting a good example
She has an extraordinary opportunity to witness her Mama live her life with this disease — with grace, perseverance, tenacity, and a lot of laughter. She gets to see me hit my goals, live without limits, and chase down big audacious goals for myself.
All with a leopard-print CGM sticker on my arm and my pump on my waistband.
She gets to see, in real time, her Mama push through hard days, acknowledge setbacks, adapt, adjust plans, and be flexible.
My daughter gets to see her Mama navigating, balancing, managing, and fighting this disease every day.
With the understanding that it’s so I can get as many years as I can with her.
And that’s a pretty powerful thing.
, jaime cline
, living with diabetes
, managing diabetes
, type 1 diabetes