Perfect gifts for D-Mamas and Daddies

I don’t remember a lot of the details of that week way back when my daughter was diagnosed with diabetes. The lead up – that early feeling of worry that something was not quite right; the long drive to the pedi office with her looking pale in the back seat; 2:35 p.m., the moment the pedi told me what was up; the rush to the big city hospital.

The rest of the week is a blur of lessons and doctors and mastering shots and trying to get my head around it all.

Except for one vivid memory: my friend showing up on day four and telling me, with no hesitation, she was there for me. She pulled her supplies out of her bag and proceeded to wash and blow dry my hair and then French braid it.

I cannot explain to you how absolutely amazing that gesture was. Because somehow my good friend understood something that I had yet to grasp: I had to be taken care of too. As the mother of a child with diabetes, one tends to put oneself last. And how can you not? Your child, after all, is struggling and suffering and adapting and adjusting, not just that first week, but forever.

Mom instinct (and Dad instinct, please understand I mean both when I say mom . . . it’s just easier!) kicks in and we focus all on out child’s needs. And in there, somewhere, we can get a little lost.

My friend knew exactly what I needed that day at the hospital – a pick me up that just made me feel normal for a little while. I remember after she left noticing how her simple act had recharged me. I faced the next days of learning with a new spirit. (And then that scary first day home. I remember actually saying to the doctors, ‘No, really: we’re fine here. Lauren likes the activity room and I’m getting used to sleeping on this chair thingy. We’ll just live here with all of you.” Alas, they did send us home).

Which gets me to thinking today, those of us caring for a person with diabetes need some love too. Oh, we’re never going to admit it, much less ask for it. So I’ve decided to compile some suggestions for friends and loved ones of a diabetes caretaker to consider. Maybe those of us who do care for someone with D can kind of quietly pass this along to those who might want to help us out.

So if you have a friend or loved one in the trenches of diabetes care (particularly if it’s a newbie but even if it’s someone who’s been at it a long time), consider some of these.

The best presents for a D-Parent don't always come in a box.

*Cook a meal for the family and send it along with the nutritional breakdown on a card. This means the family can enjoy a lovey dinner without cooking and not stress over the carb count for the insulin bolus. Plus, it just plain makes us feel good that you understand we need to know that stuff. If you really want to knock it out of the ballpark, bring it over pre-measured into portions with the carb count for each portion. That’s like gold.

*Read a book that teaches you about Type 1 and don’t mention it until you are done. Really learning what this is all about (even if it’s been years) means so much to us all. (Shameless plug: My book is “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Juvenile Diabetes” and is available in all book stores and on all sites such as amazon – I think it’s cheapest on Amazon. But don’t feel you need to get that one – just make sure it’s a book on Type 1.) Once you are done write the D mom and/or Dad a note about what you’ve learned and what you now understand from your reading.

*Offer to go over their house for a “basal check night slumber party.” You know, D moms and dads have a LOT of nights they have to stay up late and wake up a few times a night. Why not make it a party? Offer to come over in your PJ’s with snacks, DVD’s and games and make at least one night of checking somewhat fun. You’ll keep them company, make them feel not alone and gain a new respect for what life is like with Diabetes along.

*Get trained in glucagons, shots, pumps, corrections, whatever is needed for you friend’s loved one to be over your house or out with you in a completely safe way. Particularly with young kids, we parents worry. Taking the time to have the skills needed for a child with diabetes to hang out with you is a remarkable gift to any caregiver.

*Quietly start fundraising for the walk or the ride or whatever event your friend might be supportive of. Then, show your support in a public way and show your friend that you want a cure as much as anyone does. You know, if you can get a few friends to donate a few bucks each . . . you’re really going to make an impact.

*Just listen. Don’t judge. It’s a long, hard road here in D-world and sometimes we get whiny. And cranky. And defeated. And just plain pissed off. Most times all we need is a  good friend who will just let us vent. Make up some “Venting for free” coupons and give them to your caretaker friend. Let them know they can be used 24/7 whenever needed. Opening the line of communication in a non-judgmental way is a fantastic gift (because you have no idea how much judging we hear on a daily basis).

Anyone else have ideas out there? Please share them in the comment section below. And D parents: when you are offered such things: accept! You need support through all this too.

12 thoughts on “Perfect gifts for D-Mamas and Daddies

  1. My best friend in the entire world, my friend since kindergarten, that makes it about 45 years!!! we’ve been there for eachother… her marriage splitting, her breast cancer, my dad’s alzheimer’s, and my son’s diabetes diagnosis. She came to the hospital at 6 am, brought my son fun magazines, a new tooth brush and toothpaste (she’s and EFDA!!) and she sat with me and SHE took notes and asked questions, too… She is the best!

  2. These are some really amazing ideas. I think I will use this anytime I have a friend in the hospital etc.

    Thank you so much! It’s so true, caretakers have to take care of themselves too!

  3. What an amazing and thoughtful idea. It is so true that parents in general put themselves last and even more so when dealing with a chronic illness like diabetes. The little things truly are the most treasured gifts. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. I have the most amazing neighbor and friend, who came to my house, offering support, experience, compassion, help, everything and anything I needed!
    I have called her at 2am in full panic mode, asked for about one hundred rides to school on bad mornings, and picked her brain about all things diabetes over many cups of coffee.
    Thanks for always being there Moira, and knowing what every DMom needs, this one especially, a good friend like you. A stack of pancakes at Water Street Cafe really helps too..<3

  5. A friend sent this to me, my son is T1, we’ve known just over a year. I’m struggling to find words. I mostly wish my family would read and learn about diabetes, so we wouldn’t have to explain at every family gathering what his requirements and treatment are. Your suggestions are invaluable. Thank you.

    1. I hear ya! It’s been 14 years for us and I have one sister in law who — EVERY Time I see her– says “Has Lauren outgrown that yet?” And every time after I calmly explain to her WHY she cannot outgrow it she says . . . drumroll please: “Well maybe it’s that negative attitude of yours that’s keeping it from happening.”

      Oh. My. Gawd.

      1. Wow! And you haven’t hit her? Or laughed in her face? That’s worse than my family. Guess I should be counting my blessings!

        It seems like everyone else is an expert, and they know that what my son is doing can’t be right because it’s not what they’ve heard or what they’ve read or what they remember. Maybe I need to put together a brochure and just hand it out. Put some sort of formal-looking seal on it.

        The thing is – my son doesn’t really want to discuss it or be the topic of discussion, but they get put out when his meal timing doesn’t fit with their plans. And I would prefer to forego meals or appetizers or whatever and not let him sit out of the festivities by himself – but that doesn’t go over well either. So it’s frustrating for all. Every time.

  6. Great ideas! Love the basal slumber party idea. The best thing a good friend can do is learn and understand. Be there, and be understanding that we have a hard time talking about anything but D for awhile. Offer to learn to be a back-up. Volunteer your time to D related causes. When you take action, that shows us you really care.

  7. When my son was young, one of his best friend’s grandfather had Type 1. I will always be grateful to that kids mom for inviting my son to spend the night, any time, since “I grew up having to help my day through lows at might, and I know to have him give his shots and count his carbs. Don’t worry!” Her dad lived near us too, so it was nice all around that that family at least understood. Yes, things had change a little bit, but they understood the basics.

    And, is that sister-in-law on YOUR side or your husband”s sister???? It would make a difference in the snarkiness of my remark! 😉

  8. It’s hard enough to take care of ourselves as parents of non D-kids; I can’t imagine the self-neglect when there’s a kid with D in the house. You D-parents deserve a lot of pampering (as do non D-parents 🙂 )!

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