Saturday, September 16, 2006

Being me

In a few weeks Riley will have had diabetes for a year. Recently I realized that I had fooled myself into thinking that I'd just gone on with my life. I hadn't. I had let diabetes take precedence over things. As much as I've tried to lie to myself and say that I fit diabetes into life, it was just the opposite. I fit life into diabetes.

I didn't realize this until last week. Something happened that woke me up to the fact that I had lost parts of myself to this disease. Big parts. Important parts.

I've said before that being a mother comes first in my life. But, when diabetes entered the picture, I wasn't just a regular ole' mom, I became the mother of a diabetic. I went into "Mama Bear mode". I wasn't going to let diabetes take anything away from Riley's life. I was going to make sure that Riley's life was just as full as it was before diabetes, maybe even more so. But, in focusing on Riley's happiness, I forgot about my own.

It's like I forgot that I'm more than the mother of a diabetic. I'm also the mother of a teenager. A teenager that three years from now will be gone off to college. I thought I was there for Holden all this time. I showed up at games. I listened whenever he decided to share parts of his life with me. But, was I really there? Was that really me, or was it just what was left after diabetes got it's part?

I'm also a wife. This is where I feel like I've failed the most over the past year. Michael and I have always been very close. He's my best friend. We are one of those couples that, with the exception of at work, you never see one without the other. We do everything together.

Over the last year, that hadn't changed. We still went just about everywhere together. But, once again, was I really there?

I feel like it's almost an art to learn how to maintain the best possible control over the sugars without letting the sugars become a part of you. It's hard. Really hard. I thought I was doing a good job. I thought I'd just made it part of life. We still did the same things as a family as we used to. But, now I realize, I wasn't really there.

I have tried so hard over the last year to teach Riley that he's so much more than a reading on a glucose monitor. That he can do anything he wants. That while it's important to maintain good control, it's most important that while he's doing that he enjoys life too.

I've been trying to teach him that without living it myself. I know that children learn the most by example. What sort of example am I setting for him? He knows the technical stuff. Just today I asked him what he does when his sugar is low. "Eat fruit snacks", he said with a little grin (he really likes fruit snacks). And, what do you do if you're sugar is too high. Again, he gave the right answer, "Take insulin".

While the technical stuff is important, I don't want Riley to let his life revolve around it. Maybe it's unrealistic to think that diabetes won't alter the paths that Riley chooses. I want him to make his decisions, not based on a disease, but based on what he really wants out of life.

If I want him to do that, then I must learn to do that myself. So, from now on, I'm no longer the mother of a diabetic. I'm the mother of a 15 year old and a 4 year old. I'm the wife of a wonderful man who would literally do anything for me. But, most importantly, I'm me.


Anonymous said...

Penny - What a wrenching post. You are right - it is hard. Really hard. To stay oneself AND care for yourself - or your child who has diabetes - sometimes feels impossible. I would imagine, given Riley's age, that it is especially difficult for you - because you pretty much have to be all over this disease not just with him, but FOR him.

As a child with diabetes gets older, at least my mother tells me, the weight lessens on parents. Of course, she says, there's always the worry - but the day to day maintenance part can be sooo consuming. I think your goal of setting an example for Riley is a great one - he'll realize, from watching his amazing mom, that his life is about his life - diabetes is a part of it, but it is nowhere near everything.

I'm thinking of you!

Anonymous said...

Good For You!!! The kids will be fine if we are fine!

Scott K. Johnson said...

Another very powerful post, and I think that you have realized some very important things. That's a big step, and a natural step, and a positive step.

I would also think that by recognizing this, that you are, again, setting a very good example for both of your kids.

I think that both Holden & Michael would love to hear your feelings on it, and would express that they have not felt at all "less important" or neglected. They are just watching the wonderful mom & wife in action doing her thing to take care of Riley, who needs extra care and attention for a while. I bet you'd be surprised what they thought or how they felt about things too.

I also agree with everything that NicoleP said.

Take care SuperMom!

Jamie said...

I think that this is something we all go through as parents (when their child has Type 1). It took me quite awhile (almost a year, to be exact) before I realized that I wasn't going to let this disease take away from any of us. Thus, we had a very busy summer - a summer full of fun doing things that we would have done if Diabetes wasn't in our lives and we just took care of things as they happened. Just recently I have started to do things for ME. Just like you, we all need to sit back and look at the big picture - and where WE fit into it.

Thank you for the post you made on my blog about Danielle going to preschool. I have to tell you, I copied and pasted it to an email I sent to one of Dani's teachers. It made her cry (it brought tears to my eyes too) - and in a good way .... a "happy cry" as her teacher put it. You're so right - what matters most is that she had a great day.

What matters most is that YOU be YOU as well. You're a great mom to BOTH of your children and I'm sure your husband will agree that you're a great wife, too.

You ARE setting a good example.

met said...

* tears and chills and a happy smile for you*

Awesome way to tell the story of a mother's feelings of love and loss and rebirth.

Thanks for putting me in perspective this am. I have to remember that Tommy is a happier boy when I am happy too.

*smiles and hugs to you*
Mary Ellen

Penny Ratzlaff said...

I don't know what happened. My comments are usually emailed to me. I thought no one had commented on this post until I came across it today.

You all made me cry. Thank you for your very kind and encouraging words.