Why diabetes is like a toddler

What would you say is the worst thing about having a toddler? The obsession with the word no, and a refusal to comply with any request? The sleepless nights, as your child won’t sleep, or will sleep, but not in his own bed, and only for intermittent bursts? His unpredictability, and tendency to tantrums out of nowhere? His uncanny knack of figuring out a way round all your best laid plans? Or his lack of common sense and logic, which frequently puts him in dangerous situations, as you hurtle in to save him?

It’s the same with diabetes.

Toddlers and diabetes at Christmas

Toddlers and Diabetes at Christmas

I’ve written before about how having a child with diabetes is like caring for a newborn. Since Christmas I’ve altered my view somewhat. Actually, diabetes is unpredictable, stubborn, and ready to throw a spanner in the works at any moment, much like a difficult toddler. And whilst Christmas is a magical time, all honest parents will admit that toddlers can also be sheer hell when they’re out of routine, much like diabetes. Here’s what I’ve learned about dealing with both toddlers and diabetes at Christmas.

Different bedtimes

  • Advice for parents of toddlers: if you shove a mince pie into a toddler and let him stay up late, he’s going to get over-excited. Expect unpredictable behaviour and sleep patterns. Be prepared for nocturnal present frenzies at any moment.
  • Advice for parents of diabetics: happy moods do all sorts to a diabetic. He might go to bed with a high blood sugar on Christmas Eve from all the excitement. Try not to be complacent – he could very well have a dangerous low at 2am – from all the excitement. Be prepared to hide all the presents Santa brought, and stay up till 3am to replace them unseen.

Less activity

  • Advice for parents of toddlers: when you leave your child on the sofa for hours on end staring at the TV, he will stew in his own lethargy until his energy boils over into full-blown hysteria. Re-read Toddler Taming so you’re ready with your best negotiating skills, and have a bottle of wine to hand in case of setbacks.
  • Advice for parents of diabetics: kids need a day off, right? A harmless Christmas film, like everyone else. Bank some sleep in advance though. Sitting on the sofa is probably the diabetic’s biggest enemy. The mince pie is fine, you have insulin for that. But every hour on the sofa builds up insulin resistance, requiring extra injections, until by the end of the holidays he’s on double his usual dose. It’ll take you till the early hours every night to get a handle on it. And be prepared for a crash when he goes back to school. Alternatively, don’t let him watch TV, ever, and make him do an hour on the trampoline every morning. Oh, and the Xbox? Hide Super Mario – Just Dance is the only game you have now.


  • Advice for parents of toddlers: his mood swings will be mercurial from the alternating levels of input, as you swerve between enthusing over his gifts and ignoring him in favour of the oven and the Christmas dinner. Make sure there is always a guest in the house who can help with Lego instructions while you cater for the masses. Try to purchase the patience of a saint on Amazon well before the festive season. Also, wine is helpful here.
  • Advice for parents of diabetics: excitement, tiredness and changes to routine are all going to affect the diabetic mischief-maker. You could just give up, and accept that blood sugar levels will be unhealthy for a couple of weeks – not tempting, I know. Alternatively, you could get your child to prick his fingers 18 times a day so you can react to out-of-range levels quickly. Or you could forgo the the £50 gift for your auntie, and spend it on a device to stick under your child’s skin that will tell you what’s happening to him 24:7. Whatever you do, don’t drink wine. You’re going to need all your faculties at 3am.

Changes in environment

  • Advice for parents of toddlers: next you’re going to take your toddler out of his comfort zone, to different places, visiting grandmas and cousins who serve different food, have puppies, ponds, and unlocked knife drawers. Don’t sit down, or close your eyes. Ever.
  • Advice for parents of diabetics: be prepared. Take three suitcases full of snacks, just in case. Take four times as much medical equipment as you need; you’re bound to lose some, break some, and forget some. And never let your child leave the room without sugar. When he goes to the loo in a restaurant and gets locked in, you’re going to beg the staff to kick down the door or call the fire brigade. And that gets awkward.

Christmas with a toddler is the extreme of all emotions. It’s a joy, but it leaves you exhausted. The great thing about toddlers is that eventually they grow up. Lucky old diabetes stays forever young and full of life. Stay on your toes, and always take sugar to the loo.

For more on what it’s like to live with diabetes read Lara Brockmann’s story about Type 1 diabetes.

Difficult toddler image courtesy of Shutterstock.

12 thoughts on “Why diabetes is like a toddler”

  1. Love it Helen! I can totally identify! We’ve had a week of torrential rain followed now by glorious summer sunshine and BGL levels going crazy like you wouldn’t believe!
    Biggest difference – I wouldn’t be crazy enough to have a toddler at this age – no choice with diabetes!

    • Hell no. Been to toddlerville and not planning to go back. I can just picture diabetes’s excited little face at the prospect of storms followed by heat – happy as a pig in muck I imagine!

  2. Oh my goodness! It sounds horrendous and you have my utmost respect for staying on top of it. Christmas upsets routines for everyone, but for most of us it’s just mildly irritating – late bedtimes, grumpy kids, an extra pound or two on the waistline. After reading this, I shall be forever grateful that’s all I have to deal with!

    • Ah it’s only mildly irritating once you’re used to not sleeping and spending an hour every morning doing maths 😉 Thanks Sarah x

  3. Oh my word – sounds as though you can never, ever switch off. I do hope, like having a toddler, it gets easier as the years roll by. From the looks of things, you and the rest of the family are doing a magnificent job of taking this errant toddler.

    • I think it gets easier as they grow up and take more responsibility for it themselves Nell. I get my time off when she is at school, making her own decisions. They used to phone me daily for advice but now I often don’t hear from her till pick-up. Except this week. This week I have a hotline to the school office!

  4. I have to say that Christmas with Autism was hard – but at least when the routine is back it is relatively easy by comparison. And OMG did you have no wine over Christmas? Or is that how you know that it isn’t a good idea (written to Mummy obvs)?

    Fantastic post as ever.

    • Of course I had wine Joy! I needed wine! But actually I did have to be sensible – I hate to think of the errors I could make with an insulin pump in the middle of the night with too much alcohol on board. Mind you, I do a lot of decision-making when I’m sleep-deprived, which is probably just as bad! Oh well. She’s still here x

  5. Well done for battling on in spite of everything. GG is so lucky to have you looking out for her. Keep going Helen, it’s all a mum can do x

  6. Helen it is definitely the inactive times that I struggle with, we have different ratios for lazy days. And times like Christmas and excitement wreak havoc don’t they ? x

  7. Oh goodness, such difficult things to have to go through for all of you. I love this post, really informative in an engaging way. I knew nothing about diabetes until I started reading Stevie’s blog at A Cornish Mum. I feel pleased that I’m starting to gain some knowledge of it and that I would be more likely to spot the symptoms if either of mine were to have it. For me, the worst part of having a toddler is that it’s over so soon. In September, my “toddler” starts school. I’m going to miss her terribly every day. That’s the big difference between the toddler and diabetes – we all want a cure for diabetes so nobody has to go through it. And we all want our toddlers to stay young, sweet, innocent and happy forever and not have to grow up and face the big wide world.xx


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