The mother daughter panel is always a highlight of Mother Daughter Weekend. It’s great to see moms and their grown T1D daughters interact with each other as they reflect on the teen years. Moderator Theresa Klaasen and panelists Svati Narula, her mom Elna Narula, Lia Noguchi, Jaqcueline Babel, and her mother Phaedra Babel are living proof that the mother-daughter relationship can indeed survive the teen years.
Last week we wrote about the challenges that our panelists faced when they were teenagers with diabetes (and moms of teenagers with diabetes. For part 2, here are more of the panel’s discussions regarding dating and other aspects of transitioning to adult life.
Daughters, how many people in your friend group are aware that you have diabetes? How do you ask your friends to learn about your diabetes and teach them how to help you? This applies to romantic partners as well.
I have always been very open about my diabetes. I’m pretty sure that all of my friends know. At college there was a girl that I had gotten really close to, and at the end of freshman year she finally asked me about my insulin pump. I was shocked that she didn’t know it was an insulin pump. I thought everyone already knew, because I had always talked about it openly. She told me, “For the first half of the year I thought you were just being rude at dinner, texting on your cell phone!”.
People ask me all the time what my pump is, and I tell them. It’s just part of who I am. Diabetes is a big part of my identity. This was something mom-driven for many of my high school years, especially when it came to teammates, field trip classmates, etc.. For my mom to be comfortable with me going on those trips, she wanted everyone who was going with me to know how to use glucagon. That was something that I might have waited to do, but mom wanted to teach them how, before anyone got into the car. It’s awkward to be teaching someone I don’t really know how to use glucagon. However, that was just something I had to get used to.
In high school, I definitely kept my diabetes a secret. Now, I’m really open about it. I have a really close circle of friends and they all know. They all know what to do when I’m low, and they respect my boundaries with alcohol and food. I’ve had a boyfriend for eight years and he has been super supportive. He goes to all my endocrinologist appointments with me. He helps me when I’m low. My boyfriend is like my right hand man. He does pretty much anything I need him to, but he also respects my boundaries. This is my thing and I deal with it the way I want to, but he’s there if I need anything.
How did you help teach him?
Going to the endocrinologist appointments really helped. We have gone to a few events together. He has done the JDRF walk with me. My boyfriend knows my daily routine and I try to involve him when I can. He knows how to change the cartridge in my pump, how to check my blood sugar, how to use glucagon. I try to incorporate him into my daily life. I never sat him down and told him, this is what you have to know. It was more like, “This is what I’m doing now. Do you want to watch me or do you want to try doing it with me?”
I attended a really small high school. There were about 25 students in my class and every single one of them knew I had diabetes. Every single one of them knew what to do when I was high or low. I never really showed them what to do. I told my best friend and she told her boyfriend. Then, it kind of just spread from there. I felt better knowing that they all knew what to do. They all were really supportive of me.
Now, I live with my fiancee and he’s very supportive. He’s more on my back about it than my parents were. “Did you test today? What are your numbers? What are we doing?”. He does let me have my space, though. He also goes to all of my appointments. In addition, he knows how to do insulin and my carb ratios. It’s nice knowing that someone else knows what to do for you when you are high or low, just in case.
You are now adults. How did you prepare for some of the big life events like driving, moving away from home, going to college, dating. How did diabetes play a role in that?
We just went with the flow. We went to the doctor when I was getting ready to drive and went over everything that came with it (make sure you are above this number when you drive, etc…). It was easier for me because the school already knew. If I was late to class they knew it was probably diabetes related. As far as dating goes, I went to a small school, so everyone knew, and it wasn’t a big deal.
When I first started college, I went to community college. At that point my parents and I transitioned from them ordering my supplies, picking up prescriptions, making appointments, to me doing it. My dad got laid off from his job so I lost my insurance coverage. I was working 4 part-time jobs and going to school full time just so I could pay my prescription bills and get all of my diabetes supplies. That was the point where I took over full control. Once I finished community college I went off to university but I I didn’t go very far. My family is from Castro Valley and I went to San Francisco. I was already independent by then, but I was still close enough that my parents could help me out with whatever I needed.
Having the support network of other families with diabetes in our area was huge. We leaned on them for advice and support. For example, when I got my drivers license, we talked to other moms in our support group about what to say, what to write, what kind of doctor’s letter to have, etc… Having advice from moms with daughters who had gone through it helped a lot. It was the same when I was going to college. We talked to moms and dads with kids a couple of years older than me who had gone through the transition. On their advice, we were going to campus tours and interviewing endocrinologists! All through college mom was ordering my diabetes supplies. Now I do it, but they are still shipped to her house.
I would say it’s an ever evolving process. Little by little, it is important to get your kids to be able to do things, not do everything for them, not have them do everything. One of the best things is what you can learn from other moms, mentors, health professionals. I really believe in the power or resources.
Moms, what were some guidelines you set around dating? Daughters, what are some things you look for when you start dating, knowing they’ll be a good person helping you with your diabetes?
Svati wasn’t a big dater. She had her friends but she was very involved being editor of the paper and running. She was so busy with everything else so dating wasn’t her main focus. We are a very close family and we do a lot together, so that [dating] wasn’t happening a lot. As Svati got older, we just talked about things as they came up. We were on a JDRF panel about preparing for college, and that opened up a lot of dialogue. Now she has had a steady boyfriend for a while and she is about to move in with him. I’ve gotten to know him and I trust her.
I think of myself as a late bloomer in the romantic department. My parents never had to have any rules about dating, and I never felt like my mom or my dad would have a problem. Even though I have an Indian dad, I feel like if I had wanted to go on a date with some guy with a motorcycle, I could have. It just never happened. We joked about it a lot, but I never felt like my parents were never going to stop me from doing anything. My parents were the cool parents.
When you did start dating, did your diabetes come into play into factor when you were looking for someone to date?
Yeah. I think I’ve been very lucky. All of the people who I’ve gotten close to, whether they are friends or boyfriends, are all very sensitive and caring about my diabetes. They are interested in learning and they pick up on things. Jackie can probably speak to this better than I can, because I’ve had only 1 boyfriend. We’ve been dating for 1 1/2 years, and this is all I’ve known. He is as involved with my diabetes as I want him to be. He does all the things that I think make sense, like asking what my blood sugar is before bed and getting me things when I’m low.
My experience is not much different from yours. I did not date in high school, and I’ve only had one serious boyfriend, who I’m still with. We’ve been dating for eight years, starting when we were 18. He’s the only boyfriend I’ve ever known, and he’s been very open and accepting of my diabetes. He helps me in the ways I need help.
I have lost friends over my diabetes from some insensitive things they have said. I remember one specific friend who used to be my best friend. When we were high school freshmen, she told me that she didn’t want to do a diabetes walk with me. She was doing a cancer walk that day, and she told me cancer was more serious than type 1 diabetes. That totally threw me off and I never talked to her again. I was so hurt by her comment. It still gets me so pissed! I still can’t believe how insensitive that comment was!
I’ve also been very lucky. Jackie really didn’t date in high school. It was a small school, so I knew all the boys anyway. When she did start dating, he knew what our family was all about.
Thank you to our panelists and moderator for a great discussion! We appreciate all the insights and tips you shared with the moms and daughters currently going through the teenage years.