Friday, February 18, 2011

The "IS Trap"

  Some may argue it is simply a matter of semantics.  I call it opposite perspectives and a life choice.

  It's all about "is" vs. "has".

is   /ɪz/
3rd person singular present indicative of be.
has   /hæz/
a 3rd person singular present indicative of have.

  To be, to exist, to in most basic terms define one's self. OR To posses, to carry with, present in one's life.

  I made a conscious decision early on that as a father, it is my responsibility to not only provide food, clothing and shelter to my children, but also to teach and to lead and to help them develop their sense of self and become their own individuals.  So, after Jonathan's diagnosis, it didn't take much to realize that it was going to be on me (and my wife, and to an extent our daughter) to do everything we can to reinforce the difference between is and has when it comes to this disease.  There are enough hang-ups, misconceptions, and challenges with Type 1 Diabetes as it is that I can not accept the possibility that it would cause Jonathan to doubt himself or hold himself back from anything in life that he wants to do.

  Before we even left the hospital I made a very clear distinction between "being" and "having" Type 1 Diabetes.  I promised myself and, by extension, Jonathan that I would not let this define who he is; regardless of how far reaching into our lives it could become.

  So, what is the "Is Trap"?  I think it comes down to mostly verbal laziness with a small contribution by societal influences.  Here is a comparative example of the simplest form of the Is Trap:

1) My son is a Type 1 Diabetic.
2) My son has Type 1 Diabetes.

  #2 Was the one I had planned on going with all along.  It's probably the most frequently used line since it pretty much has to be said to preface any statement on the subject when talking with someone who doesn't already know.  I've noticed lately however that my "has"s have been turning into "is"s.  I'm not sure when it started exactly, but once I realized I was doing it, it dawned on me that it was going to be harder to hold that distinction than I thought and that's when I first knew about the "Is Trap".

  One thing I've learned is that you don't necessairly have to tell a child someting in order for them to believe it.  They are observant and open-minded little information sponges.  They pick things up from conversations had with other people, from how we act, and from what we do.  Worse yet, if they recieve conflicting information between what is said to them and what is said and done arond them, then not only is credibility lost, but they will tend to believe that the indirect information is probably the truth.

  Like with so many other things in life, one thing can lead to another and eventually the best intentions can turn into disasters.  So seeing the "Is Trap" really took me aback because I hadn't expected to put my foot in it so easily or quickly.  I'm hoping I've learned from this and can keep it close to me so that I don't slip into a pattern of defining Jonathan by his diabetes as opposed to remembering that is it something that is only a part of his life.


  1. I have caught myself using the "is" a little to often. I regret it right after, but I keep doing it without thinking.

  2. I am very aware of the "trap". I even thought about it when writing the "descriptor" of my blog..."A Day-IN-The-Life of parenting a child with type 1 diabetes"... I didn't want to say a "diabetic child". GREAT POST!