The One Without Diabetes
It was 2 a.m. and I had gotten up to check Johnathan's blood sugar when I heard a sound at the doorway. I turned to see my 12-year-old daughter, Addy. She is a light sleeper, and she must have woken up when she heard me shuffle into Johnathan's room. She asked me if her little brother was all right.
Her eyes were about the same size as mine, little slits open just enough to watch out for the door frame and the Matchbox cars on her brother's bedroom floor. I wondered then how many nights I had woken her up doing this—sleepwalking to Johnathan's bedroom, waiting for him to fling his arm out from under the covers so I could check his blood sugar, and listening for the "beep" of the meter. I told Addy that everything was OK, finished checking Johnathan, and walked her back to her bed.
I lay awake that night last fall thinking, "What impact has Johnathan's diabetes had on Addy over the years?" Had she felt neglected, or left out, or disappointed over the little things, like when we don't get sugary funnel cakes at the county fair? I knew she wasn't oblivious to the extra concerns that parents have for a child with diabetes.
One day about a year after Johnathan's diagnosis—he was just 16 months old when we found out he had type 1 diabetes—my husband and I were standing in the kitchen, scratching our heads, desperate to determine what had caused Johnathan's blood sugar fluctuations. His numbers had jumped high to low, low to high, all day. He was so little then, and I felt horrible pricking those small fingers, but we did it, getting different numbers each time. Had we not counted his carbohydrates correctly that morning, or at lunch? Did he get too much exercise, or not enough? My husband and I ran down the list of possibilities. Addy, who was 4 at the time, strolled into the kitchen with her plastic dinosaur in hand, listened to us for a while, and asked, "How come you guys never stand in the kitchen and talk about me this much?" My husband and I both realized that we had to make it a goal for ourselves to not let Addy feel any less important because she didn't have diabetes.
In the eight years since then, we've tried our best with both our kids. We've taught Johnathan how to take good care of his body, and we've balanced the other things in our children's lives, too, like baseball and softball and one-on-one time. We've taught Addy the basics of diabetes management and the importance of being a kind big sister. We've encouraged the children to do what they love—exploring the outdoors and riding bikes and building forts.
While Johnathan learned how to be a kid with diabetes, Addy learned how to be a sister to a kid with diabetes. We've managed to raise a caring young lady who is willing to carry sugar in her pocket on a bike ride when her brother doesn't have pockets—a girl who is willing to wake up at 2 o'clock in the morning and rise from a warm, cuddly bed, just to make certain her brother is all right.
Faith Thompson lives in Morgantown, W.Va., with her husband, Arthur, and their two children.