Monkey adjusting: diabetes explained to a jealous sibling

I had a very odd conversation with Eric's brother Nate last night. It seems Nate, who's nearly 8, has become a bit jealous of the "attention" his brother gets from me. Even pointing out that a lot of this attention involved me poking Eric with sharp objects, or not letting him eat until I was sure his blood sugar was going down, it was clear that Nate felt that "Mama likes Eric" better than she "likes Nate."

"What makes you think that?" I asked finally.

"Well," he said, a bit tremulously, "You come to the school MUCH more often to see Eric than you come to see me."

"Oh, Nate," I said. "I'm not coming to see Eric. I'm coming to see the monkey."

The tears stopped. The brow crinkled. Confusion, instead of self-pity. Good.

"What monkey?"

"Don't you see the monkey Eric has? He carries it with him everywhere. It's called diabetes, and it's a nasty little creature. If it gets hungry, it spins Eric around and round till he's dizzy and sick. Sometimes it gets too much to eat and then it acts wild and dances on his head, which makes Eric have a headache and run around just to try to get the monkey to fall off. It bites him on the finger every few hours, and sometimes it bites him on the BUTT. And at school, because it's important that the monkey stay quiet, several times a day, Eric has to go to the School Monkey Adjuster to have it dealt with."

"Monkey Adjuster?"

"Mrs. Sanborn [the school nurse]."


"I only come to the school to help with monkey adjusting if it's behaving especially bad. And because the monkey goes wherever Eric goes, Eric has to come with it to the office so we can make the adjustment. It's a real nuisance, and I'm sure Eric would just as soon not have to deal with his monkey." [Eric, bless him, nodded vigorously at this point.] "But I hope you realize, I don't come to the school to see ERIC. I come to the school to see the MONKEY. I would far, FAR rather be able to ignore the monkey, but if I ignore him, he makes Eric suffer. So believe me when I tell you, I'm not at all excited about seeing the monkey."

He thought about this. "Mom, will that monkey ever go away?"

"I sure hope so, someday, but he'll be around for a while I'm afraid. Diabetes monkeys are hard to get rid of."

More thought. "Hey, maybe I could become a monkey adjuster when I grow up!"

"Maybe you could, Nate. But I kind of hope that by the time you grow up, they won't need monkey adjusters."

"Yeah, me too."


That brought a tear to my eye. Thank you! I'm going to send it to my sister, who I'm sure would have appreciated being told this story when we were young.

awesome! No other comment needed.

That too brought a tear to my eye. Thanks for sharing it.

I am balling!! Thanks for that!!

Elizabeth - Wow. Your kids are incredibly lucky to have a mom who cares so much and is VERY CREATIVE. You came up with that spontaneously?? I'm impressed! I was initially drawn to your post because, ironically, I wrote a blog post a while back titled, "Diabetes Monkey"! Small blogosphere!

I was inspired. I didn't know how else to make Nate understand that I wasn't coming to the school to "see Eric" — but with Eric listening too, I didn't want to be excessively negative about what a drag it really is to drop everything and go to the school because of a bad site or what have you. Casting diabetes in the role of a somewhat obnoxious monkey just seemed to make sense.

Ha! having just read your Diabetes Monkey blog post, it totally fits. I think I'm going to have to get or make Eric a monkey-shaped pump case one of these days.

Oh my God! This is sooooo precious. May I suggest you contact either Jan Brett or Janell Cannon, two incredibly popular children’s book authors, and together with their artistry and your story, you’ve got a very valuable book worth sharing. Bravo!

wow elizabeth, sooo creative and it really did sum it up in kid terms, sooo touching how nate wants to be a monkey adjuster love that empathy quality. it is hard for siblings to not feel left out or slighted but you put it so well. great spontaneous big hearted parenting, i agree with calopaar, book deal? blessings to you and your little guys. keep making little nate feel special and unique! amy

Take caloparr's advice. that would make the best kids book ever!! Amazing Mommy skills on your part congratulations :)

Thank you, I think I will.

Super! I’m so looking forward to seeing and reading it! Please let me know your progress and if I could help. I am a former NYC public school teacher, and was a Reading Specialist for two decades – I think I know a good story when I see one – and you have a double winner – a good story AND a valuable topic! Best of luck to you!!!

If I could get Peter Gabriel to agree, I'd make it an e-book that featured Shock The Monkey as background music :)

I think that's my new diabetes theme song.

Elizabeth, I checked out some comments on the Net about what the reference to “Shock the Monkey” meant and was surprised by the Gabriel’s fans interpretation and the author’s actual intention of these words. I also saw a video of Gabriel on You Tube called “One on One with Peter Gabriel” which was quite long but I got a good idea of what he’s really like. He seems to be a sensitive and caring father and just like a child himself who enjoys learning new things. Therefore, I got the impression he is approachable and would welcome the challenge of coming up with a monkey song title and lyrics that would be directly related to having a child with Type 1 Diabetes; a song that would not only fit your book but would go National, be sung by millions, and help to get the support needed to find the cure you mentioned to your son, Nate.

This is so great! What a perfect explanation. Have you considered writing children's books? I can remember my brothers going through this, except it was over being adopted. My brother wanted to be "very Special" also.

I write grown-up books, but would be willing to give writing a children's book a try. I've always thought that I over-explain things too much to write for kids (get a copy of my diabetes parenting book and you'll see what I mean) but maybe I'm not giving myself enough credit.

Keep twisting my arm and sooner or later I'll give in and do it :)