James has had type 1 diabetes for many years now. Some days, it feels like his diagnosis was just yesterday, and on others it feels like it was an eternity ago.

The differences in James since those first early days are drastic and easily observable. James started this adventure as a very little boy. He was completely dependent on me for all of his care. He needed me to test his blood sugar, count his carbs, administer every shot, and explain why the world changed so abruptly after our hospital stay. I’ve been so happy to notice that despite this, he has kept a lot of his innocence and uncomplicated joy.

He’s taller than I am now, and I suspect he has many more inches yet to grow. He can count carbs, test his blood sugar, operate his insulin pump, and track his blood sugar on his cell phone. He’s so much more aware of the wider world and more capable of complex emotions and understanding. I’m proud to report that in place of his boyishness, he now has a wicked sense of humor that I’m just starting to enjoy! It’s a little bittersweet, because it’s just like “they” said it would be: It did, after all, go so fast!

My own evolution has been less easy to observe. When Craig and I talked about how much we’ve changed over the course of the years since James’ diagnosis, at first I kind of thought that we haven’t changed all that much. I still feel the same inside… at least I think I do?

We certainly don’t look as drastically different as James does, although this too is in dispute. James was looking at me the other day. He was very close and, like I said, we’re about the same height. I asked him what was wrong. He said, “Mom, there’s something wrong with your eyes. There’s this purple stuff underneath them and these wrinkles and they’re kind of baggy.” James was so earnest in the discussion. It was like he was observing something that he didn’t understand, and only with reticence did he mention it in hopes that I could help explain the change. I put my arms up on his shoulders and looked back into his eyes and had to explain that I’m getting older. It’s unlikely that my eyes will ever be totally free from purple bags and wrinkles again. He told me, “You’re still my most beautiful mommy.” And he’s right. I’m his only — and therefore his most beautiful — mommy! Ahh, the perks of motherhood.

But when his father and I started thinking about how we’ve changed, we noticed other things too. I know that I’m bolder and thicker-skinned than I was years ago when James was so little and I was still figuring out if the world was a friendly place for people with diabetes. I’ve since learned that it is possible to be both amiable AND earnest. People generally appreciate straight talk, and when it’s paired with genuine concern and politeness, it becomes an efficient and trust-building way to operate in the world. I think about the things that hurt this mother’s heart of mine when I was a younger mom and James was recently diagnosed — things that really deeply pained me. Rejections from classmates, slights both real and imagined, stemming from diabetes or not — these would not cause such hurt inside if I were to experience them today. I’m more patient with ordinary irritations, knowing that such annoyances almost always accompany the very best parts of life. If I concentrate on them too intently or wish them away, I lose some of the best and most fulfilling moments of my adult life.

Diabetes weaves its way all through the changes that have been wrought in me. Let’s just say it: Yes, it has brought out the purple under-eye bags that James noticed. But diabetes has also helped bring me to this place of contentment and competence in dealing with life’s challenges, for which I’m profoundly grateful. I’ll take it, baggy eyes and all. I’ll take it a million times for that suddenly tall, funny, and genuine kid I’m privileged to call mine!

Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.

Related topics:
What I Learned by Trying James’ CGM Device on Myself
Buttons: James’ Segue Into Diabetes Awareness
A Year-by-Year Guide to Type 1 Self-Care

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