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Father Knows Best


The following post is a slightly longer version of something I wrote up for the T1D Tuesday blog at Gina Capone asked me to write a little ditty as Father's Day approaches and to give a bigger audience a look at Type 1 diabetes from the Dad's perspective:

I grew up in a generation raised on a steady diet of television sit-coms and cop shows. Gilligan was always infuriating the skipper, Lucy would scheme on Desi and Joe Friday always got his man. Strong archetypes like Robert Young and Mike Brady taught us how dads should act. They were all knowing, all patient and had great hair.

No matter what kind of trouble the TV kids got into, you could count on TV dad to sort things through by the end of a thirty minute episode. Feelings would be assuaged, relationships mended, boo boos properly kissed and cared for. If a mystery was involved, TV cop or TV dad could piece together the most obscure clues to neatly solve the case.

Real life and being a diabetes dad is nothing like what Hollywood writers prepared us for.

When my first child, Miller, was born, I had unreasonable expectations. Upon childbirth, I somehow imagined that an encyclopedic knowledge of automobile and home repair would automatically and magically enter my skull. Alas, there was no bolt of lightning that granted me the god-like wisdom of TV dads. Still no bolt with our second daughter Cassie and her diagnosis of T1 diabetes as a 1 year old.

Watching re-runs offered no answers. So I had to rely on real work. I researched online, read voraciously and met with lots of other dads with "daddybetes." Slowly, I began to comprehend the true nature of the disease and the proper use of a socket wrench. It's going to take longer than 30 minutes (including time for commercials).

Unlike network television, life with diabetes can't be solved within reasonable time limits. It takes perseverance, patience and huge helpings of hope. When Cassie was first diagnosed, the doctor told us diabetes would be cured by the time she got to college (she graduates high school next May, and there's little chance of a cure happening by then). We've heard grandiose claims from well respected institutions and quacks alike. "Our cure is just around the corner," they claim. But we know better. It's not going to be a magic, silver bullet kind of discovery. We believe it will take many steps to get us to a cure. The good news is that we will make progress along the way – like better pumps, better medicines. We have to celebrate the small successes and research advances, even though we want a true Cure right this very minute. But until we find that cure, dads, like JDRF, will keep working towards "less diabetes until there is none."

And real-world parent problems are messier than TV too. Diaper malfunctions. Girl drama. Boyfriends. You may have seen Bill Bixby wrestle with single fatherhood on The Courtship of Eddie's Father, but he never had to struggle with a missed insulin bolus or faulty test strips. There are intense physical, emotional and social stresses associated with the day to day management of diabetes. Real tears are shed. Yet the rewards and bonds my daughter and I encounter as a result of our struggle with type 1 diabetes is deeper than anything I've ever seen on "Must See TV." Real joys come from real challenge.

Ward Cleaver is great. But this post is my Father's Day salute to the real dads out there. They're the ones that truly deserve the applause.

This blog was originally published on the Daddybetes blog June 4, 2013

More Blog Posts by Red Maxwell

author bio

Red Maxwell has been a JDRF advocate since July 1997, two weeks after the Type-1 Diabetes diagnosis of his 18-month-old daughter, Cassie. He currently serves on JDRF's International Board of Directors and is the Chair of the MarComm Committee. Red also founded, JDRF’s highly successful social network for Type-1 diabetes. Since 2004, Red has written about parenting a child with diabetes on his widely read blog, Professionally, Red Maxwell is founder and President of Onramp Branding, a branding and online marketing agency based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Tags for this article:
Diabetes   Participate in your Treatment   Children and Young People's Health  

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