My parents have taught me many things. This is from my perspective as to what has been the most valuable lesson for me. Now that I’m a parent do I even begin to understand things from my childhood. Some issue will arise with my children and I’ll think back and go “Oh…I get it now”. And only now do I really get what I would call their greatest lesson as a married couple.
Let me tell you a little about my parents.
My mom is the kind of person that will tell it like it is. She stood up for me when my teacher picked on me while another parent might have avoided confrontation (I was embarrassed, relieved, and proud all at once). Everyone I know likes being around her. She’s energetic, bubbly, and fun loving. People are always surprised that I’m her daughter and not her sister because she looks at least 10 years younger than she is. My mom loves a party or social gathering. It’s why I didn’t just have a father daughter dance at my wedding, I danced a samba with my mom, too. She rarely loses at board games. She always is ready to spring into action. She has five grandchildren and I swear she has more energy than me when taking care of them. She raised two children with type 1 diabetes and was the main pancreas for us both. I don’t remember her getting emotional or upset over what we had to deal with. She just did what needed to be done and continued to live life. I know inside she suffered but I don’t remember seeing it. I can recall her frustration when managing Ana’s low and my high all at once, as well as the needs of our three other siblings who needed her attention. But overall her attitude of “you and Ana can do anything with diabetes and still be healthy” always reigned. So I continued to play sports and do the things I enjoyed, regardless of how much more challenging diabetes made it all. My mom was in the stands ready with water, juice, glucose tablets, our meters, all while chatting up parents and cheering on the game. She helped us live as normal a childhood as was possible and looking back, I am really appreciative of that gift.
My dad is in many ways my mom’s polar opposite. While my friend’s dads were drinking a beer and watching football on TV (nothing wrong with that) my dad was spending time with us. He often talked to us kids about science, philosophy, religion, politics, health-heck every possible subject in the world, aside from gossip and small talk. I don’t recall one instance in my entire life where my dad went out with friends or coworkers without his family. He was with us or he was working, period. I thought that was normal until I got older and realized that there were many dads out there who did very different. I grew up thinking that everyone’s dad played the guitar for them before they went to bed and that everybody’s dad had taught themselves to play the piano. Ana and I have a few favorite songs we share and they are original piano compositions by our dad. My dad is our family’s moral compass. He’s like a visionary, too, observing and looking ahead. He taught us to do right by others and to dream big. A family friend once aptly stated that if she was going to a party she’d call my mom and if she was on her deathbed, she’d call my dad. Despite all his deep thinking and seriousness, I think my dad can be quite the character. He worries for everyone and their wellbeing and takes his responsibilities seriously but sometimes he’ll break out with a random joke or do something utterly spontaneous. When I was pregnant, I went to my parents house one day for lunch. As my dad opened the grill to get it ready he basically freaked out over this:
He was genuinely angry at the birds (a hilarious stark contrast to the normally very concerned citizen of nature so this was a huge surprise to us all) and I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.
He managed our diabetes from a less intensive point. He made charts and graphs and helped point out trends he noticed. My dad was often the one to notice when Ana or I didn’t seem like ourselves. My mom is naturally more hands on and did our shots and finger pricks and carb counts until we took those over. My dad, a little further removed, was able to see the bigger picture. He also served as the more emotionally available parent which is as valuable as anything else. My mom pushed her emotions aside and reserved all her energy. Anytime I needed something I’d automatically say “mom!” I still do that and instead of call my parent’s house, I call my mom’s cell without even thinking about it. I can’t imagine how much more difficult things would have been with my diabetes without either one of my parents. I think Ana would agree.
My point of all this is that no parent of a child with diabetes has to be be able to do it all. Together, parents and even family and friends can use their skills and areas of interest to help a child with diabetes make their way through childhood. I think Ana and I were very lucky to have two very different people working together to meet so many of our needs.
Now that I’m a parent, I try to accept which roles I play in my children’s lives and try not to feel bad about what I can’t do or don’t do well. I can accept that I’m the nerdy mom that is a bit of a control freak and is always thinking about everyone’s wellbeing. I think it’s great that Alex is so different from me. Every time one of us is struggling with the kids, the other takes over and is more equipped to handle the situation, thus saving the day. I never want to be jealous of how Alex seems to usually be the fun, cool, and relaxed parent because when someone needs water or food or seems to have a belly ache, I am the usually the first to notice and that’s certainly valuable, too.
I hope that when my parents think back on the jobs they did with Ana and I and our other three siblings, they’ll see their short comings were simply an opportunity for the other parent to step in and to show us what teamwork is all about. In fact, I like to think that’s their greatest lesson to us- teamwork. I hope you both know you did a great job. Thank you so much.