This week, Wil responds to a pretty painful question about Father's Day... so read on, and be sure to appreciate your own dad this weekend, especially if he has been instrumental in supporting you with your diabetes.
Vickie, type 1 from Montana, writes: My mother keeps hounding me about my getting my dad something for Father's Day, but to be honest, he wasn't much of a father as I was growing up (I'm 26 now). While he was always "too busy" at work, it was my mom who did all the REAL work of keeping me alive and doing all the D-stuff. As I don't really trust Miss Manners on diabetes etiquette anymore, I'm turning to Mr. Wil for advice. What are my social obligations to a man whom I regard as little more than a sperm donor?
Wil@Ask D'Mine answers: Just send him a card on Sperm Donor's Day and be done with it. Oh wait, that doesn't exist -- even if it is a powerful documentary. (Clearly, Miss Manners is not quaking in her boots worrying about my threatening her job.)
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OK, seriously, I don't know crap about etiquette, nor do I give much of a damn about it, either. But I do care about people. And people have feelings. And when feelings get hurt, which is easy to do, it makes their lives worse. What a better world it would be if we could just learn to be kind to each other... And you know what? Being kind actually doesn't take any more physical effort than being cruel. But it does take some strength of personality.
Where on earth am I going with this? What I'm suggesting is this: You need to see the big picture here. Don't do it for the Sperm Donor. Don't do it for yourself.
Do it for your mother.
Hey, she's the one "hounding" you, so it must be important to her. Clearly, from your letter, you love your mom. Or at least you hold her in high esteem, so just treat Father's Day like a supplemental Mother's Day. Continue to honor your mother by paying respect to your father if that's what makes her happy. It's really no skin off your nose. It won't take you much time or energy to send him a card or small gift. The modern man is easy to buy for. Either porn (maybe not appropriate from a daughter) or power tools will cover the bases with most men; and both are readily available online. You can get your Father's Day shopping done with a few mouse clicks from the comfort of your home.
Historical trivia side note: It was the manufacturers of neckties and tobacco pipes that successfully established Father's Day in the 1930s. I'm not sure if moving from ties-and-pipes to porn-and-power tools is evolving or de-evolving us as a society -- we'll have to leave that to historians!
Anyway, that's my advice to you. Let go of your anger and do it, not for him, but for the one you love who's asking you to do this. That strikes me as good etiquette. Besides, it's not like skipping Father's Day is going to make a productive statement about the rift between you and your "Sperm Donor" that could lead to an improved relationship.
But while we're on the subject of dads and Father's Day, I want to talk about dads and diabetes in general. Back on Mother's Day I offered up my opinion that all things being equal, I thought D-Moms carried a larger share of the burden than D-Dads do. Surprisingly, I was not roasted alive in comments. Kinda disappointing, because I bought a special flame-proof jacket just for the occasion.
OK, I just made that up. I didn't really buy the jacket.
But something you said in your letter struck me: You said that your dad/sperm donor was always at work, instead of tending to your needs. Now, I don't presume to know your particular family situation, but I do want everyone to take a moment and think about the financial burdens we place on fathers in our society.
Yeah, we are all supposed to be liberated, and all of that, but the facts are that—in most (non-single-parent) cases—men still take on more of the financial responsibility for supporting the family than women do. I don't need to remind everyone how hard it is in America for a family to "make it" on one income, do I? Realistically, a kid with diabetes is a full-time job. One parent has to do that. That means the other parent needs to pick up the lost income, plus make more to pay for the diabetes. And I don't need to remind everyone just how frickin' expensive diabetes is, do I?
Now, I can't speak for all fathers. I can only speak for myself as a father. But I love my son more than I have the power to express in words, despite my command of the English language. The vocabulary for emotions that strong simply doesn't exist. But many would call me a bad father because I still don't spend as much time with him as he needs, or I would like.
There just aren't enough hours in the day! And I need to work long and hard to keep a roof over his head and food on the table. Yes, his mother works, too, but it seems we are always one phone bill behind, and it generally falls to me to make up the shortfall.
I suspect that many fathers are "bad" parents because they are too busy trying to be good providers, and diabetes in the house just raises the stakes.
So my challenge to all of you this Father's Day is not to belittle fathers by comparing us to mothers, and not to judge us by our failures, but to simply recognize the difficulty of the job of fatherhood in this complicated modern world.
To Readers: Maybe your father is an Ã¼ber-dad like Bill Cosby, or maybe your father may seem like distant Sperm Donor Dude; but more likely than not he's just someone in the middle, like me, with good intentions and sometimes poor outcomes.
So tomorrow, please salute the office of fatherhood by getting the man who holds it a small gift. And remember: Porn or power tools for the modern father, not neckties and tobacco pipes ;)
This is not a medical advice column. We are PWDs freely and openly sharing the wisdom of our collected experiences — our been-there-done-that knowledge from the trenches. But we are not MDs, RNs, NPs, PAs, CDEs, or partridges in pear trees. Bottom line: we are only a small part of your total prescription. You still need the professional advice, treatment, and care of a licensed medical professional.