This is a post I have put off writing. My life has taken a new turn. I have not been sure how much I would share and let alone where to start, where to end and how to collect my thoughts and feelings into something sensible. I still don’t.
At the end of August my world seemed to shatter. It didn’t of course, it simply changed courses at a time when I was least expecting it. My youngest son broke the news to me that since he was about to turn 16, he felt that he was old enough to choose where to live and he wanted to exercise his right to make that choice. I have been divorced from my children’s father for a number of years and we now live hundreds of miles apart. My son wanted to go home. He wanted to move nine hours away to live with his father and be near his life-long friends.
To say that I was hurt and upset would be an understatement. I came up with all of the reasons that this was a bad idea. He gave me all of the reasons that it wasn’t. He said that he only had two more years and he could move out on his own anyway. I countered that these last two years were vital for me to help him, guide him and teach him how to handle his own care. This was to be our transition years. He countered that transitioning for two years while living with his father was an even better way to learn. He does the bulk of his own care when he is with his father but if he got into trouble, Dad would still be a bit of a safety net. We continued to go back and forth on other issues like school, responsibility and learning to drive.
I told him that I would not allow it. I would not put his health or his education in jeopardy. I was hurt. I was upset. I cried more tears than I had in a long time. I contacted my lawyer. I reached out to friends and family. I was soon reminded that this was not about me. No matter how much I felt like a failure, my son was not moving because I was a terrible parent. He was moving because he wanted the chance to be an adult. Saying no was saying no to my son and no one else. It would put a terrible strain on our relationship and serve no purpose that he would see. They were right so I cried some more and got to work.
I contacted my pump rep and got my son a new, in warranty insulin pump. I contact our diabetes clinic and asked for his file to be moved back to our old doctor. I bought school supplies, picked up new shoes and clothes and filled his prescriptions. I stayed up every hour that I could to spend it with him. I teased him a little about the things that he would miss out on like bonding with our goldfish, fighting the dog for space on his bed, and lighting every candle in the house each evening. I told him that he could change his mind and stay. It wasn’t too late. He would laugh and say no.
His birthday would happen after he moved. We had an early birthday dinner. We had an early cake. I gave him his presents early. Inside of his card I gave him a list of things to remember, the first of course being how much I loved him, how proud I was of him, and that no matter what I knew that he was capable of caring for himself. He read my note. He smiled and put it away for later. The next day his father arrived, we loaded his belongings, I held him tight, we both cried (him a little, me a lot) and off he went.
As a stipulation of going, we arranged to discuss his readings every week. He was to upload his pump to the Diasend website and I would go in and see what was happening. This was one of the reasons for switching pumps–I could see boluses and blood tests from nine hours away. He also said that he would gladly Skype at 10pm when he had an assignment due the next day so that he could get my input. I really appreciated that –not, but reminded him that as I did with his brother, I would be in touch with the school and would be apprised of his marks and his progress.
Some people have asked what the big deal was? He was going to leave at one point anyway. I have to learn to let go. The big deal was one week to prepare myself when I thought I had two years…or more if he went on to trade school here. The big deal was he had not shown in the past an ability to take care of himself when away from me. It was as if I carried diabetes in my purse. If I wasn’t with him, he didn’t have diabetes and therefore did not need to test or do any of his care. I was scared of so many unknowns.
As a mother, I want to be there to protect my children–both of them. I don’t want them hurt. Its my job to protect them. In the case of my youngest, that includes keeping him healthy and alive. Now that I have had to hand his body over to him sooner, I feel like I have not completely done my job. As I told him I know that he can do this. He has the knowledge and the ability but the desire is often lacking. Hopefully this experience will change that. Perhaps now he will have that desire. Thankfully I have wonderful friends who continue to guide me and keep my expectations in check.
They have also helped me to find my way into this new chapter of my life as an empty-nester. Amongst many notes of support, a wise friend wrote…” A spectacularly difficult time for you Barb. But you have done everything you can to set him up for success. Now it’s up to him. Probably the hardest thing for all parents: letting go. Sending much love your way. You going through this will give you the experience to help other parents, whenever the time comes for them.”
So as Sandy wisely told me, I begin this new chapter in my life and in the life of Diabetes Advocacy–sharing with you the joys, fears, and realizations of parenting a young adult with diabetes from afar. It won’t be easy but parenting is never easy. Parenting a toddler, a pre-teen, a teen or a young adult with diabetes is even harder but we make it through with love, support and amazing family and friends.