Am I Giving My Son—Who has Type 1 Diabetes—Preferential Treatment?


The other day my twelve-year-old daughter looked up from her two pieces of French toast. She stared at me across the breakfast table with eyes that are the exact shade of blue as her older brother’s and said, “Why do you always give Will more?”

“Because he’s two years older and twenty pounds heavier than you are,” I answered firmly.

“Oh,” Gigi said, in a subtly combative tone, pleased I was joining her in this little tussle. “Is that why he always gets the best peach and the best berries? Is that why he always gets the unburnt toast?”

Reader, I do not often burn toast. When I do (charcoal being a carcinogen), I feed it to our compost pail, not my children.

But I will admit that I do give my son, who was diagnosed with T1D a little over two years ago, preferential treatment.

I like to think that this treatment is mostly limited to mealtimes, though I’m probably wrong. What I explained to Gigi and her brothers that morning is this:

Will has a slightly different relationship to what he eats.

When he was injecting insulin for the first year of his diabetes, his experience with food suddenly became fraught.

In order for his body to access the glucose in the carbohydrates in Will’s food, we have to calculate the ratio of insulin to carbohydrates as accurately as possible. When he was injecting insulin, we had to do this while also trying to administer as few injections as possible. Will had to decide exactly what he wanted to eat for the next few hours. Which wasn’t easy for an athletic, rapidly growing, twelve-year-old boy!

Now that Will is pumping insulin and we no longer inject, life is somewhat easier. These days, if Will is legitimately hungry just an hour after dinner and he wants to pour himself a massive bowl of Froot Loops for dessert, he can simply dial the bolus of insulin into the pump instead of having to suffer another shot.

Still, when I hand Will a dinner plate with brown rice and chicken and carrots and peaches and berries, Will has pretty much no choice but to eat all of the carbohydrates he has “covered” with insulin. He is the only one in our very loose household who has to finish everything on his plate, whether he feels like it or not.

I admit it! I do try to ensure that Will’s peach isn’t mealy and that his carrots don’t have crazy root filaments or brown rings at the end.

I try to make it so that the food my kid has little choice but to eat, is food that he will enjoy.

But there’s one more thing.

It just may also be true that Will gets the juiciest melon and the crispest apples because he has always been tractable and easygoing, the kind of kid who does what I ask the first time and who almost never pushes back. When I ask him to take out the recycling he puts down his book and says, “Okay,” making a joke with me or with our dogs as he finishes the chore. While I have to nag at his sister, I can honestly say that I cannot remember, not once, raising my voice at Will.

At the end of breakfast, Will brought his empty plate and glass to the sink. He rinsed them. He put them in the dishwasher.

My creative and strong-willed and bright daughter’s plate—with half the French toast and five organic strawberries floating in the lake of syrup she’d helped herself to after I’d poured her the amount I thought appropriate—sat in the middle of the breakfast table, waiting for me to clear it.