The Tuff-West family have banked many memories together travelling the world and indulging in their foodie sides. They often enjoy cooking and eating new foods together. This summer, they have a European trip planned and, in a few years, they’ll embark on their biggest milestone yet: sending their teenager off to college.
By Stefanie Phillips / photography Ryan Francoz / hair & makeup Natalia Zurawska/JUDY INC.
THIS TORONTO-BASED FAMILY doesn’t let a busy schedule get in the way of quality time. Jam-packed schedules make life a bit difficult to balance—mom, Kate, 44, is a librarian and English teacher, dad, Brent, 46, is a respiratory therapist and both Phylida, 14, and Annabelle, 10 are involved in music and sports. But no matter how hairy things get, they always find time to spend together—whether they’re eating and cooking or travelling the world. Around the corner is another adventure—in a few years, Phylida will be going away to college and Brent and Kate will be faced with another hard parenting task: letting go. And while many parents can relate, it’s more concerning for them as their teen has juvenile diabetes and will need to manage the disease on her own. Still they have plenty of confidence in their daughter. Here’s why.
How do you keep your family close?
Brent: We always have dinner together.
Kate: We’ll often all end up cooking together, because [Annabelle and Phylida] are foodies, they’ll offer to make a salad or
Brent: Annabelle loves to bake. So whenever I’m baking, she’ll help me. She always helps me make cookies or make bread. We
love baking together.
Kate: We like to travel a lot. Five years ago, I took a sabbatical and Brent took two months off of work and we travelled all
around [as a family]. We ate ourselves around Europe. We went to Iceland, Italy and France.
Was it hard travelling with a then five and 10-year-old?
Brent: It was fabulous, really. We had such a great time. It brought us together as a family but it also opened their eyes to so many things, and I feel especially with Phylida, that they grew so much. [Phylida] gained a lot of confidence when she came back.
Kate: They say things like, “that trip was the best thing we’ve ever done and I wouldn’t change any part of it.” So we’re actually
going to Amsterdam and Belgium in July. We’re going for three weeks, and they’ve been helping us plan.
Why do you make travelling a priority?
Brent: With the girls being four years apart, it’s surprising how close they are. When we’re home, they’re close, but when we go away they get closer because they only have each other. It helps them connect.
Kate: I think [travelling as a family] really cements their relationship. It’s nice to explore something together.
Do you notice any changes in their relationship since Phylida has become a teenager?
Kate: Yeah, Phylida wants to hang out with her friends more. She has more independence…Phylida has juvenile diabetes, which she’s had since she was six. So she’s always been really reasonable and practical. I kind of still see her being like that.
Are you worried about Phylida going away for university?
Kate: Brent is always really worried about her, but I have some confidence in her as well. I think she has a really good head on her shoulders and she has goals and she just works through things.
Brent: I just worry about her. With her diabetes and managing that. Right now she’s doing a great job and I think we’ve done a pretty good job with giving up control of that. I work in health care and I often see cases where parents have been very involved in their child’s care. When it comes time for the children to transition into an adult environment, the parents are still doing everything for them. The parents find it very difficult and the child finds it really difficult. I’m well aware that we need to cut back on what we’re doing, knowing that she needs to take that over so that she can do things for herself one day.
What advice can you offer to parents whose teenager is diagnosed with diabetes?
Brent: I would say [they] need to start giving up control of [their diabetes] and start delegating the care to [their] child early on. Don’t wait too long. If you wait until they are teenagers to start giving up that control, it’s going to be a lot harder on them and on you. There needs to be a give and take. They need to slowly show you that they’re able to do it, and then you back off. You keep backing off until they take over little by little. ■
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