What 24/7 Looks Like

My mother had a few memorable quotes about raising children. She used to say, “Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems.” That may be true for most families, but there are many families with little kids who have “big problems”. A perfect example of this is the family who sent me a letter last week asking for support of a “Walk for a Cure” fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. It was written by the mother of two boys, both of whom have Type 1 diabetes. The name of their walk is “Double Trouble”.
shadow of a boy with mother at a wooden fence

Once upon a time, that mom was an eighteen year old from North Dakota who came into my home as a summer nanny for my children. She is like another daughter/big sister to our family. When she told me about the events leading up to her 16 month old toddler being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I don’t think I knew more than a thimble full of facts about it. I was shocked to hear about the serious complications of Type 1 diabetes and the intensive education parents needed to get things right about their son’s care. It was literally a matter of life and death. And just when they were getting used to handling the wild inconsistencies of the disease, life took another turn: the other son also developed Type 1 diabetes. He was 9.

I have seen the parents of these boys in action. I have witnessed how they prepare, weigh and measure food at every meal, how they determine the amount of carbs in each food at every meal, how they record the carbs and calculate insulin to cover the food in separate books for each boy. By the way, anyone who said algebra is not a life-skill, never saw a parent of a diabetic figure out the carbs from nutritional information on the back of a box or from a restaurant menu. While they don’t give insulin shots, they do have to program and maintain the sub-cutaneous insulin pump.

I have seen these parents worry about the affect of time spent on a bogey board, a trampoline or a soccer field and blood sugar levels. I have seen them drive out of their way to avoid the kids seeing the donut shop. Think about having a discussion with your 5 year old (or 10 year old) about why he can’t eat what everyone else is having at Halloween, a birthday party, the pool snack bar or ice-cream truck.

These parents never sleep through the night. The dad tests the boys’ blood sugar at midnight. The mom takes the 3:00 a.m. shift. The boys wear continuous glucose monitors even at night, and two monitors sit on the mom’s nightstand. An alarm sounds if a blood sugar level is too high or too low. If one goes off, she checks the boy. It can happen multiple times a night. This is the routine. About the blood testing – each boy has it done anywhere between 8 and 12 times a day. Multiply that by 365!

When the boys are at school, the mom is still on call. When the school nurse is sick, the mom has to stop by and do the lunchtime carb counting and blood testing. There is no dropping the boys off at an activity and dashing around town on errands. The mom has to go on each class trip, sit during sports practices, as well as games, birthday parties and movies. This isn’t being a helicopter parent – this is just what it takes to be a parent of a diabetic.

Sometimes I think we can forget what certain moms and dads deal with on a 24/7 basis because we only know them from work, from church, the gym, or as another school or team parent. Most of these 24/7 parents pull it together, do their jobs, and carry few traces of what their lives are really like. There are so many of these parents all around us and they need our support. They need someone to understand what 24/7 looks like and feels like: no breaks and a lot of worry. Search your heart for a way to help them. At the very least, remember to say a pray for them as they go through another day.

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2 Responses to What 24/7 Looks Like

  1. Carolyn Mundy says:

    I wish I had read this years ago when my youngest daughter’s teammate and classmate was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes in middle school. I knew the mom worried but I had no idea how time consuming and worrisome the disease really is. Thank you for opening my eyes once again to the situations others face. I will include ( I promise) this young family in my prayers.

    • Claire Coleman says:

      I know what you mean, Carolyn. Everyone is dealing with “something” in his/her family. When though we can’t change the situation or make it better, we can always say a prayer- for grace, courage, endurance – so they can handle one more day.

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