I read a lot of blogs that give great advice from their expert opinions and I love them. I learn so much. So I started thinking: What advice can I give? I went over and over it in my head and realized my “expert opinion” might need to come from another point of view: Learn from what I did wrong.
It’s not that I’m a bad mom – I’m not. Both my daughters (one with diabetes, one without) are well-adjusted and successful young women. But in the 14 years we’ve been on the diabetes highway, I’ve made my share of wrong turns. So what better way to help out and give advice then to share what I think I did wrong and how I’d do it differently if I could turn back time?
I’m going to focus on the teen years, since those are so difficult for so many, and since I seemed to have (so far) concentrated many of my mistakes to that time. So here goes: What I did wrong and how you can learn from it, D-Momma Style.
*Don’t trust your teen: I don’t mean this in a “be paranoid and watch them every moment” way. But, particularly if your child has had diabetes for a good long time (and been a so-called “model patient,” as mine was for so many years), it’s easy to fall into a place of just completely trusting them. For their sake: Do not do this. I did. And when the teen years and ways of doing things started to creep in, my amazing daughter with D even gave me a warning. One day, when I yelled out to her from another room asking her if she checked and what her number was (so I could diligently log it into the color-coded program I was using) she came in and said to me, “Mom. You shouldn’t always trust me with telling you this.” I actually laughed at her. A couple of months later she was in the ICU. She’d been lying about her numbers and her insulin doses. Had I taken her lead and “not trusted her,” she would probably not have been in the ICU. She never did have to go there again, and part of the reason was I did not completely trust her.
How do you do this without having them despise you? It comes down to this: if you actually watch your child check their blood sugar (and watch closely; teens are tricky!) and watch them put insulin into their body at least one time each day, chances are they are not going to end up in the ICU. (I know. If your kid is younger you are thinking right now: are you nuts? I’m going to watch them every single time. But the reality is, if you want your child to live their life too, that is not always possible. This way, at least you know they are safe).
*Use your power.I’m thinking, of course, of driving. I was weak. While I got a “diabetes driving contract” and made my daughter sign it, I was too burned out to really use that incredible power. She’s my last child. I was tired of driving kids everywhere all the time. The lure of being free of that made me weak. Look, teens don’t care about down the road or what might happen to them in 10 years. They care about today. Maybe tonight. Perhaps Friday if there is a big party or event. But they don’t think beyond that. Driving is one thing they really, really care about. So if you set out rules ahead of time (like: you must check before driving, period and if you “forget” more than once you will not drive for a month) and stick to them, you’ll have in your hands a powerful tool to try to guide them to a responsible place. And what about bribery? In my experience, it did not work. Once they get what they want, you lose that power.
*Do something about your own burn out first: If your child has had diabetes for a while, there’s a good chance you might be burned out at the same time your teen is burned out. Be proactive with your own relationship with diabetes. See a counselor. Find a way to get some support. Even if you’ve kind of nudged your spouse or MIL out of this all these years, work at letting them in. because the combination of a burned out D Parent and a rebellious teen is trouble.
*Do not think you are alone or doing something wrong that others don’t do. It seemed like all I ever heard was every other teen with D was just fine, thank you. They didn’t mind checking and they really focused when their a1c “soared” up over 7.0. I felt like such a fool. Everyone else had it figured out. Clearly I was the worst mom out there. Then I finally asked our CDE about it. “Why,” I asked, “does every other family have no problem at this point?” She looked at my daughter and then me and said “Because most of them are lying to you. Trust me, I see them. This is a hard time for most families.” I think just knowing that from the start could have helped.
*Consider some treatment options: Sometimes I wonder if we had taken half of my daughter’s pump basals and had her take them as a Lantus shot if it would have helped some. I wish I had been more open to other treatment ideas during that time. I am a huge pump supporter but at the end of the day, so long as a teen is putting insulin into his or her body it really does not matter the method. Be open to ideas, even if they are not what you consider to be “ideal.”
*Set realistic goals: When my daughter was little it was perfectly reasonable for me to plan on her checking multiple times each school day and the rest of the day. But this is not always realistic with teens. Have your teen talk to his or her medical team to work out a plan that is reasonable and acceptable to them and him or her. It might be less than you want as a parent, but if their medical team can live with it, you should be able to as well. Sometimes I think if I had been more willing to accept less, my child might have done more in those years.
*Laugh. A sense of humor about it all can go a long way. I know from having a teen without D that they all lose their minds at times. I remember the first time my eldest daughter freaked out in a teen way. I thought to myself: My goodness. That whole Linda Blair thing was not actually fiction! They speak in tongues (even they don’t know what they are saying). Their heads sometimes spin all the way around. And there just ain’t no explainin’ it.
*Know that if you just stick with it and have some faith, it will work out. So long as you know they are safe in the immediate time, things will turn around. For my daughter (knock wood) it happened in college. She just finished her first year and she did an amazing job. Did she do all I wanted her to with checking and the like? No. But she had no emergencies. She lowered her a1c considerably. She did well in school and had fun and made a million friends. And her adult endo assured me that while his goal is to help her move toward tighter control in time, he has had many, many, many patients over the years who all had challenging teen years. The vast majority of them are fine, happy and chugging along even 40 years later. In other words, other than my really gray hair, things should be fine. My daughter is an amazing young woman. I admire the heck out of her. And there’s something to that.
Look, I’d do anything to have had our teen years be smoother. And I hope yours are too. But I think if you can find some kind of middle ground where you know your child is safe and you can stay involved in their care somewhat even when they claim to want to be independent, perhaps yours will truly be smoother.
Anyone else have ideas? Post them here. We can all use some great teen advice I think.