Our first holiday season with diabetes in the family was 20 Christmases ago, but I can remember it like it was an hour ago. It was all centered on sugar free candy canes. Now, before you jump on me about carbs being carbs, understand that first, I was new to life as a diabetes mom and second, 20 years ago we were treating our kids with NPH and R, a standard of care that made treats trickier than they are today.
In any case, I got it into my head that I simply had to find my tiny little six-year-old daughter some sugar free candy canes so Christmas would be the same, despite diabetes. The Internet was rickety then and sugar free wasn’t a staple item. So I searched. And begged. And made phone calls. To no avail. I spent hours and hours, day upon day searching for those blasted sugar free candy canes.
I cried on Christmas Eve, as I stuffed my daughter’s stocking. It was just months into our life with diabetes on board, and I was already failing. Sure, I’d promised her that I’d do all I could to make life the “same” even with diabetes. And I meant it. But clearly, I thought as I hung those stockings back up, I was not capable. I was not worthy. I was a terrible D-Mom.
Then Christmas morning came. My two little girls opened their gift with glee. They dumped their stockings out and cheered at the cherry chapsticks, little girl nail polish and other things that Santa had found.
In a quiet moment, I brought up what was missing to my daughter. “Honey,” I said, “Santa tried really hard to have the elves make sugar free candy canes but they just not get it right. I tried to help him and I did not succeed. I’m so sorry. Really. I’m so sorry.”
Without missing a beat, she looked at me like I was crazy and said “Mom, duh. I hate peppermint and Santa obviously knows that!” She turned back to playing with her sister and their new toys.
Bam. There it was. I’d been so caught up in looking for ways to make sure things were not bad that I’d totally missed noticing just how good things were. There were lessons learned that Christmas morning that stick with me to this day. Here they are:
*Don’t try too hard to hold onto the past. Sometimes it is all going to be okay, even if things have changed. Because you know, even without diabetes, things have a way of changing from year to year. Holidays can point that out to us, in both happy and sad ways. Our job on this vessel of life is to go with the tides and see what shows up on a new and lovely horizon. Think of the time I wasted and the stress I created searching for candy canes that my daughter never even wanted. They’ve served as a symbol for me over the years and remind me not to focus on what I don’t have but to embrace what I do.
*Joy beats out loss: Sure, we lose something when diabetes enters our lives. Like spontenaity. And the innocent notion that our child is always going to be fine. But diabetes shouldn’t simply steal our joy. Remember that happiness requires no bolus.
*Let the children lead: Whether you are a D parent or an adult with diabetes, look to the children around you to guide you toward the good of the holidays. Don’t get so busy stressing over a mealtime or a carb count or an unexpected site change needed that you stop focusing on the fun. Kids are usually great at this, and they are tiny little vessels of positive therapy. Toss a challenge at a kid and they soak it in, take it on and then get back to the important job of just having fun.
This is our 20th year of having diabetes along for the holidays. That once little girl will be flying home from her exciting life in Washington DC to spend the holidays with her family. And oh, we have changed. This year we have no little kids around the table; in fact my adult children have voted to go out for Chinese for Christmas dinner. Me? I’m not going to stress out about Chinese spiking her blood sugar as it often does.
Instead, I’ll embrace what I learned that Christmas morning so long ago: blood sugar, high or low, shots or pump changes, or finger pricks and more, none of it can override the simple beauty of family and holiday.
Excellent read! Thank you!
I was Dx’d with T1 a week before Easter. Even though I was an adult, my mother still prepared Easter baskets for me. This was in 1982 or 20 – no internet. She did what she could – a 6-pack of Diet Pepsi, some sugar-free breath mints, and a cool necklace. My chocolate filled Easter basket was given to a young Naval officer she knew with no family in town. THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES.
Very touching story. Sugar-free candy made me think of my father’s story. He was a physician and his mother had diabetes and may have died from complications — I barely knew her. Anyway, somewhere in the vicissitudes of his career he wound up with members of Murder, Inc. (the early Brooklyn mafia) as patients. He said that whenever one of the “boys” came for an appointment, in their Robin Hood style, they never forgot to bring diabetic candies for his mother.
Thank you for sharing this. We faced a DQ birthday party 6 days out of hospital, his own 10th birthday 2 weeks later followed by Halloween 2 days after that! I like to think I nalied it!
Our son was diagnosed on the last day of January of 2009. As a family we survived Influenza A that our just diagnosed son contracted in the hospital play room on day 2 in the hospital. We were all barely upright, but I freaked myself out when I remembered that Valentine’s Day was just days away. Add on top of the diabetes, my son is extremely sensitive to caffeine. I don’t remember what I gave the kids, but I do remember being briefly relieved before I freaked out over Easter. lol
Great article! I remember our first Christmas like it was yesterday also. Unfortunately 3 days after our first Christmas, our youngest child was diagnosed as type 1, adding even more overwhelm!
Thank you for this article!