Last night, I spoke to a small group of parents of athletes about type one diabetes management and exercise. Everyone was engaged and the sharing that came out of it was incredible. I’ve missed doing these discussions, which were frequent in the pre-pandemic days.
One mother of a teenager was there in person (the others attended via Zoom), and after the session ended she hung around for a while and we talked about diabetes tech. Specifically, my experience growing up without the blood glucose monitors, CGMs, and insulin pumps that are common now for those who can afford them.
I had shared that experience after a couple of moms talked the difficulties receiving blood glucose numbers when their kids were on the field or in the gym and separated from their phones, which act as the receiver. I took a deep breath and said something along the lines of, “If you can’t see uninterrupted numbers, it isn’t the end of the world.” I talked about my experience playing sports without the technology that exists today, and how I managed without. I pointed out that technology can fail, and having a backup plan in place for when it does–and it will–is critical.
The technology is wonderful and life-changing, and it has an emotional price that this mom and I talked about. CGMs allow sharing of almost-real-time blood glucose numbers with others, and this mom used to track her son’s numbers on her smartwatch. She felt anxiety every time the numbers rose or fell. Her son resented feeling like he was being surveilled.
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard a similar story, but how she chose to deal with the tension wasn’t what I was used to hearing. She chose having an emotionally healthy relationship with her son over obsessing over his numbers. He stopped sharing data, he’s doing just fine, and mom is enjoying the time with him before he goes away to college.
She hasn’t wiped away all the anxiety that comes with being the parent of a kid with diabetes, but she’s done something that more parents should: Recognize that there’s a psychosocial cost that comes with 24/7/365 monitoring, and make an affirmative choice about how and when to use it.