Ten years ago, my baby boy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Carson was my first child, and the diagnosis came on my first Mother's Day as a mom. I was 24 years old; he was 9 months.
In the decade since, I've learned a lot about control. After all, managing diabetes is about controlling blood glucose. And to do that, you try to control food intake, insulin injections, exercise, sleep, and stress levels, among other things. When Carson was a baby, I measured all of his food on scales that weigh everything to the nearest gram or ounce. I controlled his schedule, nap times, bottle feedings—you name it, I tried to control it.
But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't control growth hormones, stress levels, excitement, anxiety, or teething, or accurately measure tiny insulin injections. When he was newly diagnosed, we had a meter that took 30 seconds to give a reading. As the seconds ticked slowly down, I had absolutely no idea if his blood sugar would be 40 or 400. I tried to control everything, but nothing seemed controllable.
Because I was all about control, that easily spilled over into trying to control how my husband managed Carson's diabetes, too. "His blood sugar is what?" I remember yelling. "What did you do to him?" I had to learn a hard lesson: For my son to have a relationship with his dad, I had to give control over to my husband. The first time I did this was about six months after Carson's diagnosis. I went away for a weekend church retreat. I left, I decided not to call, and, yes, they actually survived and had a great time.
Now as Carson grows up, I am learning to give control to him. It's his body, his diabetes. We've done what used to be unthinkable. How could I ever let him give himself insulin? Or send him to a friend's house alone? Or let him go to a sleepover? Carson has had diabetes for so long, and I had to be a hovering mom for so long, that he now needs more independence than most kids. He needs me to back off. And I'm trying so hard not to hover.
You can't control other people either—like the moms at school who bring those heavily frosted grocery store cupcakes for every single holiday. Or the Sunday school lady who suggests you lock your child in the church office while the other kids eat Oreos and chocolate pudding sundaes at 10 in the morning. (Yes, that happened.) Or the strangers who make snide remarks about my 4-year-old having a cell phone. (Um, no, that's an insulin pump.)
It's ironic. Diabetes is all about control. But I've learned more over the past 10 years about what and whom I can't control. And that has been a very good thing.
Brenda Degner lives in Libertyville, Ill., with her husband, Todd, and their sons, Carson and Henry.