Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wouldn't it be easier to just say No?

This year, my brother and his lovely new wife flew into Boston from California to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with us on the east coast.  The night before they were flying home my mother arranged one more family dinner cooking up all our favorite Puerto Rican dishes.  After all the rice and beans were gone and we finished fighting over the last plantains the kids ran off to play and the rest of us sat around the table chatting and complaining about our over stuffed bellies.

Soon after dinner, Ben came running back into the dining room and announced he wanted to have a popsicle!  Like every other T1 mom my next question was, "Do you know how many carbs are in the popsicle?" Ben said “No” because part of the nutrition label had been ripped off the box.  He quickly ran back to the freezer and pulled out the box to show us.  Indeed only half of the nutrition label was left, and it wasn't the side with any useful numbers.  Ben and I then started our guessing game.  I suggested it was 10 carbs.  Ben quickly countered with 5 carbs.  Jeff quickly insisted we Stop!  The guessing game drives him bananas.  Jeff likes to deal with facts.  So he pulled out his Blackberry and googled "Dora the Explorer popsicles." My brother-in-law then pulls out his phone and insists his iPhone can find the nutrition info quicker and challenges Jeff to a race.

All the while, my brother is quietly watching this whole scene play out. At one point he interrupts and asks, "I don't mean to be rude, but wouldn't it have been easier to just say No?"

This question caught me a little off guard.  I answered with a "Maybe." I really was not sure how to honestly answer the question.  I thought about it a few more seconds but my attention quickly returned to the carb guessing game and the cell phone race.  Eventually, the Blackberry wins and we find the exact nutrition label.  The carbs total 14 and to Ben's delight the serving size is 2 popsicles!  Ben enters 14 carbs into his pump, grabs 2 popsicles, and races off to play with his cousins.

Since that dinner, I keep finding my thoughts continually returning to my brother's question.  Would it have been easier to just say "No"?

Before Ben was diagnosed I naively imagined that managing life with Type 1 Diabetes was simply as easy as just saying "No" to some "unhealthy" food choices.  Jeff and I very quickly learned that was very far from the truth.  When we returned home from the hospital after Ben's diagnosis, Jeff and I made a commitment to do our best to not fill Ben's life with “No's”.

Even though we dream for Ben to live a carefree life, we have learned this simply is not Ben's reality.  There are still many times when the only answer is “No”.  Just yesterday before dinner we checked Ben's blood sugar and he was only 39.  We had to tell him, "No, you can't eat yet. We need to get your sugar back up first." And believe me, this is not what you want to hear when you are hungry and have been waiting for your favorite plate of pasta and meatballs.

We have also agreed on a very short list of foods that are simply "No" foods:  bagels, big soft pretzels, and over-sized slushes.  Beyond those few food items we do our very, very best to help Ben enjoy everything he wants to eat.  So last week when Ben asked to have a popsicle both Jeff and I did not hesitate.

However, if I am being totally honest, our commitment to helping Ben manage his diabetes is not the only reason I did not say "No".  The truth is I have always (even well before Ben's diagnosis) struggled with saying "No" to Ben.  His brother's have always marveled at how easily Ben could get me to cave in.  Ben has the sweetest face.  He simply needs to ask me for whatever he wants and then look at me with his puppy dog eyes and pouty lips.  I immediately melt.  Both Garren and Cole have attempted to mimic this face, but it never works.  If I continue to be honest, the fact that Ben is my youngest and will always be my baby gives him additional powers over me that his brothers just don’t have.

Now all of this was true well before Ben was diagnosed with Type 1.  As I have noted in previous posts, when I learned and really understood how this diagnosis would affect Ben’s life, my already weak heart broke into one million pieces.  Since that day it takes all of my motherly strength to disappoint Ben with a “No”.  If he gives me his pouty face, I have to look away!  Otherwise, all my sadness and guilt will overwhelm me.  And my need to just make his life one tiny bit better will lead me to give in and say “Yes” when a “No” is the appropriate answer.  Over the past years, I have learned that there is so much more to raising a child with T1 then counting carbs, managing insulin and visiting doctors.  And I know disappointing Ben and telling him “No” will continue to be a challenge for me. 

So finally after a week of thought and soul searching, I have an answer to my brother's question, "Wouldn't it be easier to just say No?"

If he were to ask me again I would now say, "No!  Living with Type 1 Diabetes does not (and can not) be a life filled with of No's ... And honestly, I couldn't say No even if I wanted to."