Rain falls in whispers much like the day Mia was born. This week, we are passing another annual milestone: her Diaversary. Did rain fall that life-altering day? I can’t recall.
This is the last year we will celebrate together. Mia’s relocating to the other side of the country. Her dream school and thousands of miles stretching between us.
Is she ready? Am I?
The pandemic shifted our perspectives. It brought a heightened sense of anxiety to our already intense world. I didn’t clorox the groceries, but I would be lying to say it didn’t cross my mind. Thankfully as an adult, I had the skills and mental capacity to place the pandemic within some frame of context. Not at all saying this time was easy, far from. Only meaning, I approached the pandemic from a much different place than my children. Especially … my high school senior with type1 diabetes.
Attempting to create understanding and awareness of a pandemic without crossing over to an End of the World scenario is like running blindfolded through an ever-changing hedgerow maze. Managing a compromised teen during a lockdown is beyond words. The harrowing feelings of isolation, anxiety and desperation only intensified by their condition.
This past year, I watched in horror as my gregarious, intrinsically-motivated daughter turned inward to revisit her emotional post-diagnosis mental state. The challenging “My life is over” … “What is the point?” time when her adolescent issues of identity and acceptance were further ravaged by the onset of a chronic disease.
We worked hard through that period, one painfully slow step at a time. I can attest the slope was often muddy, and we slipped a lot. However in the end, we matured, we learned, and we found immeasurable inner strength. Last March, in a blink, our hard work slowly faded with each new COVID outbreak.
Chronic illness demands a unique skill set – Perseverance, Adaptability, Tenacity and Patience. We feel most days like a poster in a motivational speaker’s office. However, we don’t get to frame a catchy phrase on the wall, we have to live it.
Add in the teen issues of alcohol, drugs, bad diet, sexuality, and peer pressure, as a parent, the sinking pit in your stomach grows. You hope you’ve planted enough seeds to help your young adult navigate between right and wrong, but your well-tended garden most days seems full of weeds. Sleepless nights are lost strategizing about keeping your teen safe and alive, until they develop the ability to do so on their own. All the while, honoring the delicate balance of parental responsibility against budding independence and identity.
With graduation weeks away, I ask myself Have I prepared her enough?
I make mental checklists. I hear a nagging quality to my voice. I want to tell myself to be quiet. I can only imagine what she’s thinking.
Mia understands diabetes, carb-counting, diet, exercise, the importance of rest and how to navigate the feelings of burnout and depression, but will she have the strength to manage all these factors on her own freshman year in a post-pandemic world?
Stopping to inhale, I remember hearing her CGM alarm last night only once as she dragged herself out of bed and corrected her blood sugar. I listen to the excitement in her voice as she talks about the classes she’s going to attend next fall and the inspiring people she’ll meet. I see the sparkle in her eye as she looks up from writing her graduation speech and the spring in her step as she practices walking in the new shoes she purchased for commencement. I remind myself, it’s not my journey anymore, it’s hers. In the lifelong relay, my daughter’s grasping the baton out of my hand and running with it, leaving me to finally catch my breath.