I wrote the blog post Sweets for Diabetes Sisters 3 years ago, and it’s amazing to me how patterns in life are repeated. I wrote about how my son Miles, who is now 7 1/2 years old, was a sugar fanatic.
My son Miles loves sweets. He loves doughnuts, ice cream, cookies and candy. When he wakes up in the morning, the first thing he asks for is chocolate milk. The only way I can get him to eat his vegetables at lunch and dinner is with a promise of dessert. Mealtime with Miles is a source of constant frustration and sometimes, after I put his plate of lunch in front of him, I leave the room to give myself a “time out.” There have been too many meals that end up with me yelling and wanting to scream because I can’t get him to eat.
Now it’s my youngest son Reid who is a sugar freak. Like Miles, he loves doughnuts, lollipops, cookies, chocolate Goldfish and even my dark chocolate. He’ll eat a banana every now and then but I can’t get him to eat a vegetable to save my life and it makes me crazy. I feel like a bad mom. I worry about his future (rotten teeth, obesity etc.) and I have no one to blame but myself. I do the grocery shopping. I am the one who drives my boys to Krispy Kreme. I am the one who asks for a lollipop at the bank drive through. Reid is our third child so why didn’t I learn anything from my experience with Miles?
It’s because food is more than just food to me. It’s because after living with diabetes for 26 years, sweets equal (some sort of warped) freedom. I can’t say yes to doughnuts, cookies, lollipops, ice cream and chocolate Goldfish so I say yes to my boys.
I’ve been trained to believe that sugar is bad. For 23 years, I’ve denied myself sugar, I’ve buried my enjoyment of sweets, ice cream, cookies and chocolate milk, because it’s easier to say no than to risk a high blood sugar. I lived for years thinking about food as a science, a system of rewards and punishments rather than a source of pleasure. Whenever I was low, I could “reward” myself with a glass of chocolate milk or a couple handfuls of Skittles and when I was high, as a result of eating pizza, or not giving enough insulin, I was “punished” and had to give an extra shot or wait to eat even when I was hungry.
I remember one time when I was first diagnosed at 14 years old and some kid at school telling me that I got diabetes because I must have eaten too much sugar when I was younger. That’s what his grandmother had told him, she had the “sugar diabetes.” I knew he was wrong but still, it stayed with me. I thought about it every time my friends drank a milkshake while I drank a diet coke, every time they grabbed a treat from the candy aisle after a field hockey game while I stood back and watched. Restricted, deprived and punished, that’s how I felt about food. So it scares me when my youngest son refuses to eat balanced meals, begs for sweets and doesn’t seem to understand the word, “no” a word branded in my brain when it comes to food. I know I probably sound uptight to many of you and I hope that years from now I’ll look back on this stage and say, “remember when….” I hope that the web of this disease does not stretch its arms out into my children. I hope I can learn to put aside my own complex layers of food issues so that food can remain a source of both nourishment and pleasure for my children.
Obviously I have not learned to put aside my own complex food issues when it comes to feeding my children. I’m closer, but I don’t know that I will ever have a easy relationship with food. Ironically, Miles declared himself a vegetarian this year. When I explained to him that vegetarians ate mostly vegetables, he rethought his decision and said maybe he would be a “fruititarian.”
We still have plenty of sugar in our house but we also have a lot of fruit, and a lot of veggies (thanks to the local CSA). Miles still likes sugar, but he is the first one to finish the broccoli and carrots on his plate. There is hope for Reid.