Parent Paranoia – By Olly Double


When your kids are tiny you’re around them for most of the time, but as they get older they spend more and more of their life away from you. First it’s a couple a hours at nursery once or twice a week, then it’s school every weekday until eventually – gulp – they leave the nest permanently to go off to university or whatever.

At those moments where they start being away from you more, it’s inevitable that you start worrying about them. You’re not there to protect them and frankly anything might be happening to them. What if they get abducted by aliens while on a sleepover at their friend’s house? What if a zombie apocalypse breaks out while they’re playing at the local park? What if they’re on a school trip to the British Museum, and one of the statues turns out to be a Weeping Angel like on Doctor Who?

Of course, some fears are more realistic than that, and a couple of things make me genuinely worry for Joe’s and Tom’s safety. My two big worries are, one, they get hit by a car and, two, something goes wrong with their diabetes. This kind of thing is playing on my mind at the moment, not least because the other day Tom saw a kid from his school being knocked over by a car whilst crossing the road outside the railway station on his way home. As it turned out, the kid avoided series injury. Still, with so many cars on the roads nowadays – and so many idiots who drive too fast even on the smallest and most residential roads – I imagine every parent worries about this.

However, not every parent has type 1 diabetes to worry about, and I’m sure it helps to stoke up my parent paranoia. The fact is that however hard we all work to keep diabetes under control, things can and do go wrong from time to time when we’re not around to help. Joe once went low at the railway station on the way home from school and realised he’d run out of hypo treatment. He called home on his mobile, and had to sit on the edge of a wooden planter until Jacqui arrived to rescue him. Similarly, Tom once found himself hypoglycaemic and without Lucozade during the school Christmas carol service, and had to leave before the end to get a new bottle from the secretaries’ office where his spare supplies are kept.

Luckily, his friend went with him to make sure he was OK, but there isn’t always somebody sympathetic around. A few years ago one of the boys – I won’t say which one to spare their blushes – had raging high blood sugars and desperately needed a pee. The supply teacher who was taking the lesson didn’t know anything about diabetes and refused the request to go to the loo, thinking it was just a crafty attempt to skive off for a few minutes. By the time our boy got to the toilet it was too late, leaving him in the extremely embarrassing position of having wet himself at school.

So far, in nearly 14 years of dealing with diabetes, the things that have gone wrong have been more unpleasant than life-threatening, but one of my biggest fears is that a major hypoglycaemic episode might leave Joe or Tom lying on a pavement somewhere with nobody around to help. Joe’s 16 now and has started studying for his A-levels, so Jacqui and I are keenly aware that he’ll be going to university in two years’ time. What if he has a massive hypo and his confusion and slurred speech are mistaken for traditional student drunkenness? What if instead of helping him to eat or drink something sugary, passers-by just laugh or tut at him? After all, we know that the general public’s knowledge of type 1 diabetes tends to be on the primitive side.

When I start to dwell on this kind of runaway fear, I find calm rationality very reassuring. I focus on the fact that Joe and Tom tend to be pretty good at managing their own diabetes. They never leave the house without their BG meter and a bottle of Lucozade. They test their blood glucose fairly regularly, and both of them tend to know when they’re going hypo. It’s not uncommon to hear the fizz of a plastic bottle being opened, and when they’ve had a good old swig from it, they explain that they’re feeling a bit low and do a finger prick test to confirm it. In addition to this, both of them wear a CGMS monitor most of the time that will let off an alarm when their blood glucose is out of range, and even suspend the delivery of insulin from their pumps if it thinks they’re seriously hypo.

All of this helps to calm the nerves, although goodness knows how parents felt before all this great technology was invented. Still, knowing how sensible the boys are and how many great little gadgets they have to help them keep their blood sugars in range makes it much easier to let them leave the house by themselves without spending the whole day fretting about them.

You can never entirely get rid of your parent paranoia, though. I mean, will Joe remember to grab their blood glucose meter when the aliens abduct them on their sleepover? What if they have a hypo while they’re running away from the zombies? And what the heck will they do if the Weeping Angel sends them back to a point in time before the discovery of insulin?

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Hi Olly
I’m 34 years in to parenting my T1 Daughter. Now very fortunate to be grandmother to her 3 sons.
The fear never goes away, but it does get more bearable.
your sense of humour and your ability to write and express yourself are inspirational.
It’s ok to blink with these Weeping Angels, we’re only human. Someone will have your back, it’s a shared journey.
Thank you.

My sons 12 and was admitted to hospital and told he had type 1. I feel sick every day knowing he has to leave the safety of the house. So know how you feel only hope it gets better with time !!!

Sometimes when I listen to the crazy parent of a diabetic child voices in my head, I just like to shout ‘ENOUGH’! What if we breakdown in the snow and we are stuck for hours, trapped in a lift, facing a weeping angel. We have so many what ifs that I am conscious I don’t want the what ifs, to stop him living or becoming an independent confident person. My son is nearly 8 but he already worries too much for an 8 year old. Here is some important information, please visit it to know details.
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You’ve covered this brilliantly Olly, putting into words what so many of us parents with type 1 diabetic children feel. When Jos was diagnosed 7yrs ago, aged 9, his blood sugars were very unstable and I’d have to wake him a couple of times a night to check them. The battles I’d have with him, not being quite awake, often in a dream-state and the last thing he’d want to do is prick his finger but he would never let me do it. It’s been tough because with him being so unstable I landed up going overboard with the record keeping and monitoring him, causing resentment and a lack of responsibility on his part because he knew I’d take care of it.

He’s been on an insulin pump for just over 3yrs now and it made a lot of difference, although it took a big adjustment for him having that constant reminder attached to him. It hurt knowing he was embarrassed and was avoiding doing things because he didn’t want people to see it. But his confidence has grown and he has changed so much in the last year. A big reason for that was because he faced the biggest challenge of his life so far in July, he climbed Kilimanjaro with his dad and sister. I went from being a mum who worried about him getting through the day at school, to being terrified when he did his first overnight trip with them and we had to train a teacher in what to look out for and how to respond, to feeling pride as he stood more and more on his own 2 feet, reacting to his body and knowing what it needed, to being more worried about my husband making it to the summit of Kilimanjaro than my 16yr old type 1 diabetic son! His challenge story is told in his 2 blogs – and

He left school in July and is now travelling up to London every day by train to Westminster Kingsway, where he is training to be a chef. Yes, I still worry that he doesn’t test enough, in fact I’m convinced he doesn’t. But I’ve got to the point where I know he has to take responsibility for it himself. I’m still trying to convince him to wear his medic alert necklace in case he has a hypo on the journey, and failing. But it has to be his decision. And do I still have nights where that thought of him slipping into a hypo while he’s asleep creeps in? Of course. But then I come down in the morning to find the biscuit tin raided and the apple juice on the side. If I ask him about it he denies knowledge but it’s a case of his bloods dropping low and his instinct/habit/whatever you want to call it has kicked in.

It’s been a long journey, for him and for me. I’ll keep worrying, about both my kids, and yes I probably will always worry about him more because he’s diabetic. But what I’ve learnt is to see him as a young man who has learnt not to let his diabetes control him but for him to live his life. And I know I need to do the same, I need to let him go and trust him as the capable young man he is and who I’m so proud of. I’m trying to do that…..and will probably have to keep trying for years to come!


Can I ask some advice? My son is type 1 and has been for 6 years, he’s now 16 and the last couple of years have been an absolute nightmare! Although when asked he can tell you anything you want to know about diabetes, getting him to check his levels and more importantly, do his injections properly is just down right hard. He doesn’t seem to realise the dangers of not looking after himself properly and although I do my best when I’m around by asking him to check his levels and do his injection, he has to be asked 3 or 4 times before he does it and seems to have an attitude to boot! Myself and his diabetic nurse are at a loss as to what to do and I was just wondering if anyone else had these sorts of problems? Any advice would be gratefully received :) thanks

Well just imagine how you would have felt back in the 1960’s when I was diagnosed, no CGM, no home blood glucose monitoring and a higher degree of ignorance of diabetes amongst school staff and the general public than there is today!!!

I agree with all that you say. The worry never stops. My son is 21 now; has packed in his job and next Friday goes off to become a….ski instructor in Austria. I’m going to a nervous wreck for the next six months!! At least he now has a pump and I have take reassurance from the fact, like your boys, he is sensible and hasn’t been hospitalised since the pump arrived six years ago following hypo fits at night following….strenuous sport! He’ll be doing strenuous sport in extreme temperatures for six months!!! Aaagh!

Could not have written this better myself . Sometimes when I listen to the crazy parent of a diabetic child voices in my head, I just like to shout ‘ENOUGH’! What if we breakdown in the snow and we are stuck for hours, trapped in a lift, facing a weeping angel. We have so many what ifs that I am conscious I don’t want the what ifs, to stop him living or becoming an independent confident person. My son is nearly 8 but he already worries too much for an 8 year old.
Thanks for writing and sharing this it makes me smile to think I am not alone and you have those voices too just don’t blink with those Angels.

My son is 14 and has been diabetic since he was 15 months old. He has brilliant control and really looks after his diabete but I too am starting to worry about the time he leaves home. I suppose it’s just another step I remember the awfull feeling when he first went to school and now I don’t even think about it. I think we’ll always worry about them :)

I worried terribly about my husband collapsing from a hypo and being mistaken for a drunk so I got him medical alert dog tags to wear around his neck as I know not everybody will check a wallet or something for his card that says he is diabetic. He also has a t-shirt that says in upside down writing, ‘I’m a diabetic – If you can read this please pick me up and feed me chocolate’. Always an option!