Friday, August 16, 2013

The Conversation

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 mom/dad."

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 away."

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 true!

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 helping hand.

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 we all.  


  1. Beautiful post! Ben is lucky to have such dedicated parents! Diabetes is SO much easier to keep to yourself, but critically important to share. I'm so happy that your conversation indirectly helped others, too :)

    1. Oh my goodness ... thanks for your nice comments (and even using !s :)

      I do think it's important to share ... and ask for help when you need it ... but it is so hard to feel that vulnerable

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  3. I was 2 months into 7th grade when I was dx. I was dx on a Thursday night, skipped school on Friday, back in class on Monday. I remember going up to each teacher that day and telling them I now had diabetes. Looking back, I don't know how I was so calm about it, probably still in shock.

    Every year after that my personal policy was to walk up to each teacher at the end of the hour and personally tell them I had diabetes and would need to do certain things (7 teachers = 7 conversations). I did that through my senior year and never once had a problem with anyone.

    I always vote for having the conversation.

    1. My 7th grade self likely would have cried ... Katie you are so brave! I hope Ben is that brave when he needs to start having these conversations on his own

  4. I feel like I have gone through all the same feelings! Oh, how I would rather not tell every coach, teacher, instructor, babysitter, etc. that my son has diabetes. Sometimes, like you, I wonder, do they really need to know? And then I remember, that I am trying to teach my son that Diabetes is nothing to be ashamed of. That there are good, kind people there to help him if he should need it. I also find it funny when coaches assume he must be some kind of liability to the team, and then he goes out there and kicks a#$

    1. and kick a#$ is what they always do! Love it