Dads Who Are Enough: Fatherhood and Diabetes
Fathers are pillars of strength, the part of the family unit that extends reassurance and provision to loved ones. Fathers also offer security, whether emotional, financial or otherwise, they work to shield their kids from the ugliness of life, for as long as they possibly can.
But what happens when these views of fatherhood are challenged by a chronic condition? When a child’s diagnosis leads a dad to question his role as protector or his paternalistic desires to make everything right? When worry abounds and concerns regarding a dad’s or his child’s health plague him? When a demanding low interrupts a father’s care for his child?
Though a diabetes diagnosis can threaten anyone’s sense of self, for caretakers responsible for raising young ones in spite of, living with diabetes can lead to a state of grappling. In a world where dad can be synonymous with superhero or savior, for those dads affected by diabetes or any life-threatening disease for which there is no cure, the question becomes, how do I fully embody the expectations of fatherhood? In search of these answers, they are sometimes met with disappointment.
The truth is, diabetes does not diminish a parent’s potential to fully provide for, tend to, or assuage the needs of their children. Diabetes does not lend to a deficit view of parenthood. Fathers still father, and mothers still mother. And while the addition of diabetes can complicate the already arduous task of raising a child, it adds much value as well. D-dads and d-moms are positioned to teach early and valuable lessons on responsibility and discipline as they encourage their young ones to become more independent in their care. While teaching their kids to manage a disease that can be peppered with inconvenience and unpredictability, these parents also share an honest perspective on the difficulties of life. Whether encouraging their child after a disappointing endo appointment or modeling the importance of a bounce-back in their own habits of care, these parents instill basic teachings on the significance of patience and empathy. Life with diabetes is a value-add for those on their parenting journey.
As I navigate this diabetes community, I’ve encountered many women and mothers who speak freely about life with diabetes. But the men and fathers I’ve stumbled upon, are few and far between. In honor of Father’s Day, I wanted to shed light on a demographic that isn’t largely represented within this online diabetes space—men of color. This month I had the opportunity to connect with three dads affected by diabetes, my own, the father of a young, beautiful girl living with type 1 and a dad who was diagnosed with type 1 as a young adult.
By no means are these men’s stories meant to provide a comprehensive account of the lives of dads affected by diabetes. They are merely a snapshot. It is my deepest hope that these narratives encourage more fathers of color to speak openly about their or their young one’s journey with diabetes and also remind our diabetes dads, that they are enough!
Check out the links below to learn more about our dads and their children:
Photo by Alfred Sarpeh of Royal Light Photography.