Feeling the abundance of the holidays today, I was thinking during this season of giving about what I could do to help other parents of children with type 1 diabetes. Recalling the greatest gifts we received helped me to focus on what kinds of actions I could take to make life better for others and to pass on the gifts of friendship and compassion to other parents of kids with type 1 diabetes.
So what truly helped us in the wake of James' diagnosis and our daily life with diabetes? Here's just a partial list of the gifts we received from others:
A positive attitude.
Sharing good stories about kids with type 1 that can do amazing things. It's fantastic to hear the real-life stories about how awesome your nephew is at baseball and how your niece got into a great college.
A willingness to learn about diabetes. In other words, the gift of concerned curiosity.
Even better, a sincere desire to learn how to care for James. To those friends and precious family members who were undaunted by the prospect of pricking fingers and giving shots, and who were willing to learn to care for James: You gave me precious time to myself and an opportunity for James to feel like all the other kids on his play dates.
A listening ear. This priceless gift cannot be overlooked. Diabetes was a big adjustment for me, and sometimes I wanted to talk. Thank you for listening. Sometimes that's all I really needed.
Sharing wisdom on message boards. The people on type 1 forums give of their time, and answers can be found at all hours of the day. Most often questions are best handled by the doctors. But sometimes (for little non-medical concerns), the answer can be best supplied by another parent who has been there. It's great to know that even at 2 a.m., I can usually find the answer online.
Sometimes even sharing supplies on message boards. There were more than two occasions when a fellow parent of a child with type 1 diabetes sent a tape sample or an unused meter that was absolutely perfect for our use. They gave us gifts we never thought we'd need, but now can't do without.
Offers from friends and family to walk in support of diabetes organizations with us. Their time and enthusiasm were gifts.
Support -- and at times, legal counsel! -- from organizations like the American Diabetes Association. Their talents are tremendously valuable, and we've tapped into them on a number of occasions!
So, in light of this list, what can I now give back?
I can stay positive. I'm grateful that I can write about our experiences with diabetes. I want you (my reader) to truly know that you can get through it!
I can tell honest stories about how sometimes it's hard, but it all works out.
I can share my knowledge and information about products, foods, methods, etc. Especially if my advice is sought (it isn't always, and that's okay too).
I can always listen. That one should probably be first. Sometimes information isn't needed, just a listening ear and a heart that understands.
I can spend more time on the diabetes message boards. I can answer the newbie questions. I can be present a few hours each week to ease the concerns of a newly diagnosed family.
My list feels small and insignificant compared to all the gifts we've received. While I'm not a lawyer, a nurse, or a doctor, I'm a parent with unwavering enthusiasm and lots of hope that the future for our kids can be bright.
I'd love to find a way to give back at least as much as I've received, but I'm not sure that's even possible. It seems like the more I invest in this community, the more benefits I receive. In the meantime, I find that it makes the holiday season feel brighter to consider the many gifts our family has been given and to ponder new ways to give to others.
About the author: My name is Jennifer, and I live in Southern California with my husband, Craig, and our three boys. Our oldest son James has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I'm thankful for this opportunity -- along with my sister-in-law Kim and her daughter Kaitlyn, who also has type 1 diabetes -- to share our struggles and triumphs with our friends in the diabetes community.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.