I've always liked to prepare ahead of time. So, when Jess was eleven I went to the talk for teen parents at Children With Diabetes. And, I have to admit I left a bit panicked. The teen years sounded absolutely horrid.
Jess will be 14 in just a short time. And, I know we have barely begun the dreaded teen years. I won't lie and say that things are always smooth sailing. We've had our fights. I've wanted to pull my hair out at times. And, I know Jess has too. I'm not the perfect parent. And, Jess isn't the perfect teen.
But, as Jess finishes up middle school I can't begin to describe how proud I am of her. Middle School years for girls (and I am sure boys too) are no picnic. The drama, the discovery of boys, the becoming a woman issues. There have been a whole heck of a lot of changes as there are for all teen girls.
Jess entered middle school with the new feelings of wanting to hide her diabetes. She had always been a huge public advocate, but developmentally the middle school years are all about wanting to fit it. So, in some ways we would have been more alarmed if she had not explored these feelings. And, she was so mature about it. We agreed that teachers and the nurse had to know. She wanted a small group of friends to know. But, the other 600+ kids in the school....did they really need to know? Of course not. So, we met with the school and came up with ways to protect Jess's privacy. Wonderful ideas such as having her change for gym in the nurse's office were written into her 504 plan, as well as having a code that she could discreetly use to tell teachers if she has a blood sugar issue. The dexcom and omnipod were discreetly placed where they would never show.
And, she grew from a child to a woman as she made her way through these middle school years. She had her first real crush, went for the first time to malls and movies without parents, joined the track team, and so many other completely normal firsts. She lived as Jessica, a fairly typical middle school girl, who just happened to have diabetes.
We compromised during these years. We agreed that she would use her dexcom at school to bolus for lunch. Fingersticks during school would be rare. It would be completely up to Jess whether she wanted to take exams with high blood sugars...she would continue to be protected by the 504, but she would be the one to decide whether a test should be delayed. These compromises might not work for everyone, but they worked for us. I won't lie and say I was comfortable with the fact that some days the only fingerstick blood sugars were the ones to calibrate the dex. But, so far this has worked for us.
Today we had Jess's 504 meeting for high school. I asked Jess if she wanted to be a part of it and she did. I looked at her, sitting at the table with the principal, teacher, counselors, and nurse. Her dexcom showing clearly on her arm as she wore a tank top. I listened as she explained that she no longer needed to change in the nurse's office for gym. She doesn't care who knows she has diabetes, she explained. I listened as she advocated for herself and helped form her 504 plan for high school.
Earlier this week I watched her at the endocrinologist's office. She is confident in her ability to self-manage her diabetes. Her A1c is hers, and hers alone. But, I know she will not mind me saying that she continues to be "in goal." I listened as her endocrinologist told her what an absolutely phenomenal job she is doing managing her diabetes, and that Jess makes her job easy. And, I was impressed by the questions she asked.
And one morning this week, Jess informed me that she had woken low in the night. She explained that she had one juice box. "I wanted to eat way more, but I made myself have the 15 gram juice box as I didn't want to over-treat my low." She proudly told me she started her morning with a blood sugar of 98 and was so proud she hadn't over-treated. It seems like just yesterday she was the little girl that would never wake with a low blood sugar, even if she was 45 and covered in sweat.
I don't know what the high school years will bring. I do know there will be huge challenges. But, middle school is almost done. And there have been challenges. But, more than that there have been successess. And, those deserve to be celebrated.
I'd be ok if she continued to want to hide her diabetes. But, I am so incredibly proud of her for having an instagram account that instead says "Type 1 diabetic and proud." I'd be ok if she still carefully placed her omnipod and dexcom where they would never be seen. But, I'm relieved for her that she no longer feels she has to.
I might wish that she would never take an exam with a blood sugar in the 300's. But, I'm proud of her for choosing to do so and still getting straight A's.
There have been times that I have wished she would manage her diabetes differently. But, how can I not be proud of the way she has managed it, and the A1c's she herself has earned. Gone are any feelings of a mommy report card. I am but a member of her team now...but she is the one who has earned every excellent A1c she has had this year.
My little girl is truly no longer. It takes my breath away when I look at pictures of her at seven when she was diagnosed. I know so many are diagnosed so much younger, but she was still such a little girl. Diabetes changed her childhood. I will always hate that it took away her carefree days. I hate that she now cannot remember well life before diabetes, when I have such incredible memories of those carefree days. I hate that soon she will have lived life as long with diabetes as without. But, I cannot hate who it has helped her become. There is no arguing that diabetes has made her mature, empathetic, and resilient beyond her years. Those are amazing gifts and will serve her well as she continues to make her way through the teen years. And, I simply could not be more proud of her.