My Husband and I Had Different Diabetes-Parenting Styles

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I opened my daughter Lauren’s diabetes log book (this was, obviously, long ago). I’d just returned from my first business trip since her diagnosis, and to my horror, my husband, who’d been in charge of all things diabetes while I was away, had done everything wrong. Log book in hand, I stomped into the family room and waved it in his face.

“This?” I yelled. “This is how you take care of our child with diabetes while I’m on the road? You did it all wrong. The log book is not even color coded!”

Today, I know my ‘my way or the highway’ view was a bit, um, skewed. But then I what I felt was: I am Lauren’s primary caregiver. I’m doing all I can to keep my child healthy. I am working around the clock to balance her fun life as a kid with taking care of diabetes. I have cracked the code on what she needs. And no one else seems to get it. Not even her father.

What I learned in time was that there is no ‘one way or the highway’ in diabetes. Just like each person with diabetes is unique, so is each person who cares for someone with diabetes.

This can be hard to swallow if you are, as I was, the main caregiver. After all, you’ve worked hard to figure out the nuances of your loved one’s diabetes. And you take pride in the plan you’ve worked so hard to develop. I know I did. And so when my husband stepped up and did it – but did it his way – I flipped.

Here’s why that was wrong (and mean):

First, I was undermining my spouse’s confidence in caring for the daughter he loved as much as I did. Since that behavior was exactly the sort of thing Lauren would pick up on, I was, at the same time, undermining her confidence in her father’s ability to keep her safe and happy. My husband had tried his best in a difficult situation. (Looking back, I bet he had more than a few nervous moments that first time he was left in charge of diabetes.) And there I was, knocking him down over details. And you know what? I bet Lauren liked not having me around and doing it differently for a few days. I should have considered that.

Next, having diabetes means learning to be flexible. Forgot the meter, but feel low? Treat! Don’t know the carb count of a meal a friend is serving? Guesstimate (SWAG!). If you are wrong, you can fix it later. Stuck in a jungle with no Lantus? Take the sap from a tree and mix it with roots to make some. Okay, that part isn’t real, but you get my point. By belittling the effort (and tweaks) my husband had made, I was not teaching my daughter flexibility. I should have been thrilled that Lauren was able to adjust to her father’s style without any complaints.  

With time I would come to realize that some day Lauren was going to begin the process of choosing her way to treat her diabetes. I would need to accept that. And most importantly, she would need to know that I accepted it.

But in that long ago time before I understood these things, I picked up the phone full of fury and fear, and dialed Lauren’s pediatric endocrinologist. I explained that while I was on a trip, my husband had not color-coded the log book, and had changed the way he handled some blood sugar checks, and there other little things, too.

The doctor listened, took a breath, and then responded. I waited for him to tell me to put my husband on the phone, like to really yell at him.  Instead he said, 

“Moira, let me ask you this: was Lauren alive when you got home?”

“Yes,” I said, already feeling the heat of shame flushing my cheeks.

“Here’s the thing,” the doctor continued. “Your way may be right for you, but your husband’s way is right for him. And as long as we, her medical team, agree, then you are both right. Next time you get home from a trip, instead of checking the log book, just be happy for the support you have and trust that your husband’s love of your child is equal to yours, just like his ability to take good care of her is. Let it go.”

And so I did. I traveled many more times over the years, and when I got home, Lauren was always alive.

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rick phillips
I had type 1 diabetes for a total of 3 weeks in 1974 when I left home for a 30 backpacking adventure in New Mexico and Colorado. My parents were scared to death and despite their many concerns, I went and survived. It taught me a lot about living the best I could with what I had and I thank them 42 years later for the opportunity. Yet today we (even I) would never do that. I the best part of who I am today was learning what I did in 1974. I bet your child will know that about… Read more »
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