Today, I’m taking a break from “Five-Minute Friday” because I have so much on my mind that it really wouldn’t matter what the “word” is – my subconscious would take me down a particular path anyway. I’m still going to write this free-write style (writing continuously, no editing), but 5 minutes isn’t gonna cut it today.
I’m thinking about a conversation my brother-in-law and I had a month and a half ago about when he asked me my thoughts on parenting. As the mother of two teenagers who have, so far, turned out reasonably well, I suppose I’m as qualified as the next person to offer perspective. In that same conversation, my brother-in-law recommended the book Everything Is Horrible and Wonderful, the title of which is based on a tweet from comedian/producer Harris Wittels: “We are all horrible and wonderful and figuring it out.” (I highly recommend the book, by the way.)
It’s been an emotional week, parenting-wise, precipitated by 3 concurrent events: health insurance re-enrollment time, my daughter turning 16, and my son’s quarterly endocrinologist appointment. At the moment, I’m inclined to borrow from Wittels’s tweet: Parenting is horrible and wonderful, and we’re figuring it out. Key word is figuring because the reality is that I don’t think any parenting issue is ever “figureD out,” case closed, end of story. It’s too contextual. It’s too nuanced. From kid to kid, from age to age, from one day to the next day.
I’m changing my mind and my stance ALL THE TIME. To all the first-time parents-to-be that I know: get comfortable with the grey and humble yourself…or parenting will gladly do it for you.
Here’s what’s been “horrible” this week: the slap-in-the-face reminder, per health insurance reenrollment, that Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an expensive condition that has shaped our family’s choices and limited our options and will most likely continue to do so for Owen when he becomes an adult (and I’m not just talking about health insurance here – that was just the catalyst). I think back to when Owen was first diagnosed and he asked me, “If you could give me your pancreas, would you?” Oh, honey. You have no idea. I actually tried to at the hospital the night he was admitted!
It’s an absolutely horrible feeling as a parent to know you cannot relieve your child of the heavy, lifelong burden that is a chronic disease. When I was going through my grandmother’s files this summer, I found an article announcing the bionic pancreas that would soon change the lives of those with T1D. The article was from the late 1970s, when her son, my father, was almost 30 – long out of the house, married, and with me on the way. Holding that article in my hands, I felt so close to my grandmother. It was tangible proof of our connectedness as mothers worried about their son’s health and wellbeing and how that worry never leaves. My grandmother has been dead for over 25 years, but it felt comforting to know she gets me.
Here’s what’s been “wonderful” this week: I got to watch my 16-year old daughter celebrate her birthday with a large, coed friend group that beats any that I could have hand selected for her. Avery had a lot to lose when we moved to Cincinnati 4 years ago – her role as the ringleader of the neighborhood pals, her spot on the town swim and softball teams, which our school did not have for middle schoolers. Watching her navigate the transition with such aplomb has been truly wonderful.
But not so fast – back to horrible: Owen’s endocrinology appointment yesterday, where the doctor really wants him to consider a CGM (continuous glucose monitor), a device that is attached to him 24/7 to monitor his blood sugar levels. A device he does NOT want.
I’ve tried to teach both kids that they are in control of their bodies. I imagine that control is particularly important to Owen, who had no say in T1D setting up camp in his 9-year old body. If he wants to prick his finger 5+ times a day and give himself insulin injections rather than have technology permanently attached to him all day long, so be it. But the data we can get from that CGM would be much more helpful in managing his disease than the data we get from 5 finger sticks a day. As his parent, isn’t it my responsibility to be the adult and have the bigger picture in mind, something 14-year olds aren’t exactly known for, much less able to do?
And, not to end on a bad note, back to wonderful – nothing reminds you that your life is not your own like being a parent. To many, that indeed sounds horrible, but, really, what a wonderful sense of responsibility and purpose. By providence, these children are mine and I am theirs, and we are figuring it out – each horrible and wonderful step of the way.