Last week Ben started a new off-ice hockey training clinic. This is a new type of workout for Ben with a new coach. And much to my dismay I had to bring Ben to his first session which also meant I had to have the "conversation" with the coach. The conversation that starts with "By the way my son has Type 1 diabetes ..."
When Ben was first diagnosed it was the fall of his first grade year. He
had just started playing soccer. Before Ben showed up for his first
practice I had emailed his coach everything anyone could ever want to know
about Type 1 diabetes, including the good, the bad, and the very, very
ugly. His coach was very sweet and claimed he had read through all the
documents I had forwarded him.
I look back now and wonder what that coach was thinking when he first read my
email. Surely the thought "I wished I had picked some other kid to
be on my team" must have crossed his mind. How could it have not?
Since that first soccer season we have been through dozens of coaches between
hockey, baseball, lacrosse and soccer and with each new coach we have had the
"conversation." But over time, maybe simply out of laziness or
maybe out of wisdom, we have whittled the "conversation" down to a
few quick sentences.
We start with an introduction (we are at least polite), "Hello, I am Ben's
Now it's important from this point on to remain cool (channel the Fonz), to
avoid freaking the coach out and wishing someone else was on their team.
So we continue with, "Ben has Type 1 diabetes. During his workout we
will need to pop in a couple of times to test his blood sugar. We need to
make sure his blood sugar does not go too low. But you do not need to
worry, because either his dad or I will always be around to help him. And
if Ben ever says he feels low, please have him sit down and let us know right
This usually leads to the my-great-aunt-had-diabetes part of the
conversation. We discuss some confusing diabetes misconceptions and then
we end with, "I am so sorry to hear about your great aunt. And thank you
for your hard work and looking out for Ben."
That's it. No handouts. No lectures.
But I still struggle with my T1-tiger-mom ways and always question whether we
even need to have the "conversation" at all. Maybe Ben's
diabetes is really no one else's business. Matter of fact, between Ben,
Jeff and I we seem to be able to handle his diabetes just fine!
Then again, last week, while Ben was doing his off-ice training and I was
sitting in the gym lobby watching the clock and waiting for our next BG check
one of the trainers approached me and starting asking questions about T1.
He then mentioned that there is another boy who comes to the gym who also has
T1. This boy is a teenager and comes to the gym alone. The trainer
then tells me that when the boy first started coming to the gym he did not know
he had diabetes and occasionally the boy would tell his coach he needed to sit
down and rest. The trainer then explains that both he and the coach both
assumed the boy was lazy and not very dedicated to his training.
Ahhh, my heart hurt for this boy. There he was bravely taking
care of himself and the people around him saw something quite different.
They saw a lazy, slacking teenager, when in reality the total opposite was
The trainer then finished his story telling me eventually he and the coach
talked to this boy's mom and she explained his situation. He said they
were happy to find out the truth and also happy that they could help this boy.
It's funny sometimes when people share the exact story you need to hear at the
exact time you need to hear it. I do not judge the mom or this boy.
I totally get why they chose not to discuss the boy's diabetes. I would
love to avoid these discussions too, not only because they are exhausting, but
because I always worry about the judgment and scorn that follows. Which I
promise we have suffered through ... But not always! This trainer
reminded me there are so many nice people out there who are eager to lend a
So I will continue to have the “conversation.” And I hope when Ben is a teenager and Jeff
and I are no longer hovering around him he will have the “conversation” too. The
truth is Ben is going to need a little help throughout his life. But really ... don't