Here it comes -- the well-meaning ignorance

Just this afternoon, I had my sons Eric & Nate at a birthday party. Typical sort of thing – presents, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey (only with stickers, as apparently using pins is now deemed “too risky”), cake and ice cream, and little candy-filled gift bags. All was fine, until… you guessed it… cake time. The mother hosting the party seated all of the kids at the table for cake and ice cream, except Eric. I didn’t realize, at first, that this omission was deliberate, because I wasn’t paying much attention when the kids were collected up for the introduction of the cake. Nor, for that matter, was Eric, who was having a fine time playing with the monster trucks in the living room, but when he heard all the people singing the song, he got up and wandered into the kitchen, looking for his spot at the table. I followed, intending to help him seat himself and make sure that whomever was responsible for doling out the goodies went heavy on the ice cream and light on the cake… if only because I’d forgotten Eric’s JDRF backpack in the frenzy of trying to get two excited boys into the car with gift bags and snow pants etc., and therefore didn’t have a blood glucose meter (no worries, though, he’d had lunch a mere 90 minutes previously, so I felt pretty secure that his BG was in normal range). Once in the kitchen, though, two things became obvious: first, there were no extra chairs set up so that the extra little boy had a place to sit, and second, the birthday boy’s mother was regarding Eric with a suppressed terror usually reserved for intrusive wildlife – think skunk, or snake. As I surveyed this problematic tableau, she looked at me with desperation in her eyes and said, “What do we do? That cake is just sugar, sugar, sugar.” Apparently, she expected me to hold him back, sit on him if necessary, to keep him away from the dangerous sugar.

“Oh, it’s OK,” I answered, smiling and maintaining a relaxed attitude, despite feeling the beginnings of a slow burn… she really thought it would be OK to simply exclude Eric from this ritual? “He can have it. Just give him a very thin slice of cake, and a scoop of ice cream. That way his blood sugar won’t go through the roof.” My manner must have been reassuring, because moments later, I was presented with a plate containing approximately a half cup of ice cream (I gave it a mental measurement – didn’t want to ask them to stick it in a measuring cup for fear of frightening them) and a slice of cake that probably could’ve been measured in microns, it was so thin. Not that I minded — I didn’t really need him going into a sugar frenzy any more than I needed his BG shooting through the ceiling. So I took him to the living room and let him eat his cake and ice cream, wishing with all my heart that I could grab that well-meaning mother and say, “Look, honey – NORMAL BOY HERE. Can eat cake, will get insulin, will not go into any form of shock on your living room floor as a result.” If you were worried about him having sweets, heavens, ASK ME before you go to elaborate lengths to keep them away from him!

As we were getting ready to leave, I noticed the bags of party favors on the floor. Apparently they’d been given out before we arrived. “Can I get a couple of those?” I asked. “Nate and Eric didn’t get any.”

“They’ve got candy in them,” I was told. I smiled. “No worries, I’m used to confiscating candy… from BOTH of my boys,” I added, to make it clear that this was not a diabetes thing, but an I-don’t-want-my-kids-eating-too-much-candy thing.

Eric goes to daycare with this kid, and I do see his parents frequently; I guess I need to simply engage them in conversation so they know that sugar is not the enemy. But you know… I suppose I thought that having seen him there, eating with all the other kids, eating all the same THINGS as the other kids, they’d realize that this was just the way it was.


I know the feeling, I never got a Birthday cake. And when it is Christmas at my Moms, she yells DEBBIE CAN"T HAVE THIS, Sugar! I say oh Dear call the fire department, have them on Call! Who knew a Piece of cake was going to KILL ME!
I get so mad. But I remember this, no one wants to be Blammed for not creating a Wall to protect us Type 1"s. Gosh they fear being blamed.
I was a adult and at a family B’day party,. cake was hand given out, and passed right by me. I said hey, wheres mine. I got looks from the whole room. I said hey I take care of my Diabetes, and if your so concerned, you all probably have HIGH Something and a Disease too. So look at what your eating and not at me…There was some giggles…
I would speak to the Parents, it should not have been handled this way.

I am so sorry this happened. It sounds like you handled it well though. The mother should have spoken to you before hand or she could have made up gift bags for your sons and put something else in them. She probably thought she was doing You a favor by trying to have him avoid sugar…as if most food isn’t full of carbs ! They just don’t get it or understand it !!

Of course, what this mother should have done was to have asked you first how to handle the situation. I am sure she meant well, she just didn’t think the whole thing out properly.

In a way, she could be forgiven for her ignorance. I have read a couple of posts from both a T1 and T2 perspective on this. There was a T1 who said she had not touched birthday cake since she was dx at age 7. Others, T2s diagnosed as adults, bemoaning how they can no longer eat traditional Thanksgiving pies and cakes baked by beloved aunties to old family recipes. So there are PWDs who do enforce a blanket ban on such things.

Also too the mother could have been scared to give your child something ‘bad’ for him - bad in the sense that by itself, your child’s body cannot metabolize it. Kinda like giving peanut butter to a nut allergy sufferer. Maybe the other mother did not know that it does not have to be ‘bad’ because a properly-calculated insulin bolus is standing right by.

There are different ways to approach this, each person chooses what works best for them.

Maybe what you can do before the next birthday party is call up the parents in advance and let them know how to handle the sugary treats. That way everybody is included in the fun, and you’ll be educating and informing people.

A little tolerance on your part will go a long way, I assure you. As you said in your last paragraph, you need to engage them in conversation. They can’t read your mind.

:slight_smile: I was tolerant, Frances. I reserved my steam for the blog and didn’t get mad. That’s tolerant!

As a T1 for 50 years, having gotten it at age 5, I can totally relate to your feelings about the whole thing. The first part is the mom’s choice to differentiate her treatment of your son. A big no no in my head. The second part is no communication skill whatsoever to run anything by you, another no no. You handled the whole thing really well. I would say with grace, given the circumstances. I always say, the hard part of this disease is other people’s lack of education about how we function I know there as many permutations of how to deal with PWD’s as there are people. So maybe the first way is to say to people , ask us, we will be glad to tell you what works for us, in a situation that you described. One of the hardest things for me growing up was feeling so different, and not normal, and ostracized. That is the part I would do over if I could. I probably had plenty of birthday parties, in the 1960’s that I was in your little boy’s spot, not sitting at the table. Bottom line, everything turned out okay. Like it did from what you described.

I think the next time there’s an invitation from one of the kids at the daycare, I’ll talk with the parent when I RSVP. That was my big mistake, in retrospect – simply saying “we’ll come” without telling them “…and it’s OK for Eric to have cake and ice cream, so don’t worry about it.”