I’m not a huge fan of Mother’s Day. Mind you: my kids are wonderful about it, and so is my husband. I just kind of want to live a life in which we all almost always appreciate one another, and remind one another of it. That said, I have someone – or rather something – special to thank this Mother’s Day:
Yes, you heard me right. Because while I did not know it when diabetes barreled into my daughter’s life nearly 20 years ago, it was the best worst thing that ever happened to me as a mother.
Diabetes has brought much grief, but I can say without hesitation that it has made me better in many ways. It’s forced me to be strong and diligent, and given me skills and insights I didn’t necessarily want, but that made me grow for the better. Part of who I am as a mother is thanks to diabetes.
And so, for Mother’s Day this year, I’m going to thank diabetes for a few things, like:
It takes guts to be a good mom. The easy way out for all parents, I think, is to let fear rule you. Diabetes pushed me to let go of fear, like the summer my daughter was six – not yet even reading, and I dropped her off for two weeks at diabetes camp. I joke that I hid behind a tree for hours, popping out and yelling “are you low??!!” every few minutes that first day (not really – but I did hang around for hours). Leaving her in the care of others, with barely any contact at all, took guts. And it taught me: she can be fine without me. I carried that courage over to the rest of my parenting life, not just with her, but with my daughter without diabetes
Nothing is more valuable than understanding what is a big deal and what isn’t.
Things I used to sweat suddenly balanced out as not as big a deal. My kid didn’t get the role she wanted in the middle school play? Hey, we’re all healthy and she can be perfectly happy in the chorus. Miss a birthday party because of a sickness? Life picks up and goes on the next day. Because diabetes is a never-ending practice of making the best of things (high? We’ll just fix it. Low? We’ve got glucose tabs for that!), I learned as a mom to adopt that perspective in all my parenting moments (Okay … most of them. I am a mere human). Over the years, things like getting (perhaps unfairly) cut from the soccer team became, instead of a world crisis, a paused, readjustment and chance to move forward.
Diabetes also taught me to reposition my own perspective. It’s easy as a diabetes mom to feel sorry for yourself, to want to sink into the grief, anxiety and sometimes overwhelming duties attached to it all. But I learned early from teens and adults with diabetes themselves to change that view. Diabetes is not mine – it is my child’s. I don’t live with it 24/7, she does. And until there’s a cure, she always will. I had to learn that while my child is my heart, she is her own person and I am mine. I was not going to feel sorry for myself and not going to teach my daughter to feel sorry for herself.
Living with a chronic disease in your family opens your mind and heart to others who do as well. It also opens you to the realization that everyone – even folks who don’t have something like diabetes on board—sometimes are sad, hurt, scared, or overwhelmed by life. Sometimes, all someone needs is for you to let them know you know that.
Diabetes helped me see that. In the early years, someone who simply cared and let me know they felt empathy was like a balm to my wound. As I grew stronger, I realized as a mom knowing when to offer that balm to my own kids and my friends was a wonderful skill to have.
Diabetes helped me find my voice. I’ve told my story – make that my daughter’s story (perspective!) to senators, congressmen, even presidents. I’ve stood on stages before thousands of people and movitated them to give money to JDRF and to do raise funds themselves. I’ve ridden a bike 100 miles in one day – through a desert, through three states, through a wind tunnel of marshes in northern Florida – things I never thought I’d have the power to do. Diabetes has pushed me to push my limits, to become more confident, to work harder, and to never give up. That’s a gift that serves me as a mother and as a human being. Diabetes helped me know I am stronger than I thought I was.
Diabetes has shown me how both my children – the one with diabetes and the one without it – can thrive in life despite it. It has introduced me to incredible friends. It has connected me to a world of true heroes. It has taken me places and taught me things I could never have learned without it.
So this Mother’s Day, I thank diabetes for making me the mother I am today. I’ll keep on working to banish diabetes from this earth, but until then, I’ll continue to learn from it and soak up the very good from the very bad.