It’s the first week of summer vacation and I’m grasping at straws. I can feel myself enter into motherhood survival mode as we all attempt to adjust to our new (lack of) schedule, amped up children that no longer like each other, and a husband who is pulling 70 hour work weeks.
While I would like to make myself a bloody mary at 10 AM and turn on Bravo to drown out the high-pitched whines coming from these precious little angels I created, I resist and instead make the responsible mom move and take everyone to the park. It’s like releasing feral cats back into the wild. If I’m lucky, I will even get to answer a few emails from my phone while the cats play.
We tend to draw a bit of attention in public places, my crew and me. Between the service dog at my hip, the Mary Poppins bag of medical supplies slung across my shoulder, and a little boy with devices covering his body—I am not a fool to assume that we don’t spark interest among people who don’t know us. After all, we don’t look “normal.”
As we arrived at the park, my two youngest darted toward the playground equipment while my 6 year old sat with me on a park bench to test his blood sugar. Angus was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes right after his 4th birthday. He was rushed to Seattle Children’s hospital after his blood sugar was almost 700 mg/dL and stayed in the PICU for almost a week. We almost lost him.
In the days and weeks following, my husband and I would have to physically pin his little body as he thrashed and screamed and begged us not to hurt him anymore. You see, a 4 year old doesn’t understand that without insulin, you die. A 4 year old doesn’t understand words like “incurable” or “chronic”—but they do understand that needles hurt and finger pokes sting. They understand that their life now feels scary and different.
I watch Angus pull out his glucometer, lance his finger, and draw blood up into a tiny test strip. While we wait for his blood sugar to read, I can feel eyes from another mother watching us.
“258,” he reads.
“Okay, let’s get some insulin in you before you play.” I prime the needle, pinch up the skin on his arm, and just as I push the needle in, I am startled by a loud gasp.
“Oh my god! Is that a needle?! He’s not even crying! Wow!” She then turns to her son and says to him, “That doesn’t even hurt him! Do you see that?”
About 6 weeks into this diagnosis, my husband approached Angus with a primed needle before we sat down for dinner. He lifted his little arm and offered it to him without protest. It stopped us in our tracks and we instantly locked eyes. This was the first time I didn’t have to wrap my arms around him like a strait jacket. This was the first time that we didn’t have to force him to comply. Instead, he offered that tiny bruised arm to us and we silently smiled at each other with tears in our eyes. Pride and admiration for our brave boy melted into grief that second we realized the gravity of this milestone: he doesn’t have a choice. That 4 year old fighting us for his old life back, had surrendered. And although brave, he looked defeated.
Angus runs after his siblings and I turn and smile at the mother sitting a park bench away from me.
“It still hurts him,” I say to her.
“Oh, I didn’t realize…”
The sun is high and hot in the sky, so I pack up my cats and head home. The little ones are friends again as they cuddle in bed at naptime. Angus plops next to me on the couch as I turn on the TV.
“Ugh, not BRAVO!” he protests.
“Are you trying to tell me that my son doesn’t want to watch Bravo with his own mother?” I tease.
“Do I even have a choice?” he quips back.
His words shake me and I hand him the remote. “You do right now, bud.”