Childhood should be a carefree time of shooting hoops, riding bikes, and playing tag. It should include birthday cake, ice cream cones, Halloween candy, and licking the batter out of a mixing bowl. But when a child has diabetes, food and physical activity are two of the most critical things to manage. Food raises blood sugar. Physical activity (typically) lowers blood sugar. As a parent I feel like I am constantly walking my diabetic children along a teeter totter with food at one end and physical activity at the other end; trying to keep a good balance so my child does not tip too far one way and fall off. If we are at a birthday party I have to guess how many carbs are in a piece of cake and then guess how active they will be after eating, before deciding how much insulin to inject.
Healthy AND Happy
Would a strict low carb diet be easier? Maybe. Probably. But my kids with diabetes need to be kids. I get so focused on helping them be healthy that I sometimes forget to help them be happy. And sometimes happy means eating the birthday cake even though you know it will most likely cause crazy blood sugar swings later.
My 12 year old son had the same school nurse for 6 years in elementary school. Everyday I would pack him a lunch with a sticky note tucked inside breaking down the carb count for each item of food and then a total carb count so the nurse could calculate how much insulin to inject for his lunch. Diabetes made him feel different enough already so he wanted a typical elementary school cold lunch which often included a PBJ sandwich, chips, fruit and a cookie. I often worried about what the nurse thought when she saw what I was packing in his lunch until one day I stopped by the school and she said, “I think it’s so great that you don’t restrict what he eats. He needs to be a kid.” What a relief to hear that she understood that sometimes lessening the mental/emotional impact of diabetes is more important than worrying about the physical impact.
Good nutrition is important to me. In fact we grow a lot of of our own vegetables and sell the excess in the summer but that doesn’t mean we do not enjoy baking and eating sweets together. Some day my children with diabetes may see the benefit of a low carb diet and choose to restrict what they eat for better blood sugar control; but for now I’m going to let them eat the sugary cereal (carefully measured out of course) and enjoy being a kid.