There’s no rule book for teens, just as there wasn’t a rulebook for babies or four year olds who whine incessantly. People warn you, and you just know you’ll be different, you’ll be a better, cooler mom than the person standing in front of you who rolls their eyes, offering up a long-suffering sigh when remembering their kids’ teen years. You. Will. Be. Better.
How could I think I was so special?
It hit us when Wink was in middle school. Our first She—anxious, mumbling, shy—rolled her eyes and fibbed nearly every day for years in order to go about her life without us on her back telling her what to do. I thought we were in it for the long haul, fully expecting the second kid to overlap the first with the same bullshit game. Somehow, we escaped with about a nine month gap. My oldest came back to me at 16. It was a miracle. And our trust runs deep, and we both know we’re in a good place. (Kid, I do hope you read this one.)
And in that time of turmoil, my younger She would look at me and say, “I’m so sorry Mom. I’m never going to be like that. I can’t believe she acts like that.” And sadly, I believed her. How could I have such whacked out expectations? I mean…REALLY? There were a few differences to note. My oldest She does not have diabetes, and the only kind of social she was is called social anxiety.
My little She began her journey into typical teenage behavior sometime this year. In retrospect, she transformed a whole year later than I thought she would. I call it the diabetes delay. Just a year ago her teachers oohed and aahed over this child that I had made. “She should be some sort of counselor. Her perception of the world around her is grown up. She has her finger on the pulse of this life and other kids walk around thinking they know, but she really does know the real deal. It’s so obvious to our team” is what I heard. And then it changed in an instant. The feeling of her pulling away was so great it knocked me off my vertical axis. Diabetes burnout has hit our family. There’s late boluses, and possibly missed boluses (how would I know since she’s so sensitive to activity?!), no communication, no telling mom she’s spending the night at a friend’s house on Dad’s Friday or Saturday when mom is THE go-to person at 4am to answer in a mini-crisis, diabetes-related plea. Dad doesn’t even answer the phone. And here’s a big one (having had only one sister myself who for years did this to me), stealing.
I’d love to blame all this on diabetes, but I know with 100% certainty that she’d be acting like an alien even if diabetes wasn’t in the picture. And, the consequences of her trying to go through life like she’s already on her own, living in a tiny apartment while she finishes her doctorate degree, hit her where it hurts the worst – socially. How can you say “No” to a social outing with diabetes kids when it’s them who give her the strength to carry on in this life? It’s them who help her be less depressed, to feel more whole, to feel less alone. “No” comes with depression. Depression fosters poor behavior. Poor behavior leads to possible sirens. And when I take the time to let myself think about the diabetes aspect of her poor behavior, I know she’s been lucky.
After taking into consideration what some dyed-in-the-wool experts in the DOC have said, and what we’ve learned in the past year in our psych visits, and chatting with a friend who gets it, but can’t fully get it because she’s only got one kiddo and isn’t dealing with the big D in two homes, I decided to send an S.O.S. to our trusty psych. <– Cred to the aforementioned friend for the suggestion! My message to our doc went something like “Gah! She’s not playing the game! It’s getting worse. We’ve been through this and this and this and I’ve tried that and that and that and my face is so tired of being blue. She’s been lucky! Her luck will run out! I’m not doing enough. What I’m doing isn’t working. And how did we even get here? I’m the cool mom! I’m the ‘Tell me the truth and you won’t get into trouble Mom.’ I know, I know. The wings are sprouting and she’s testing EVERYTHING. But still. If change doesn’t come, those sirens surely will.
Said trusty doc calls me. And after a mildly long and comfortable brainstorming conversation, she hits me with The Contract. Oh, Doc. Your ability to pull tricks out of your toolbox so quickly makes me want to see it so I can oooh and aaaah at it and your brilliant perception of our world and what we need to do to fix it, or at least make it more bearable. I am to devise a contract that lists the Me and He and He rules we want her to follow, with some possible input from her of things we are not aware of when she’s out in the world. (Will she tell us anything? I wonder.) It will contain rules and then a set of consequences for when the rules are broken. We three parental units, plus teenager-going-on-30-something are to sign it, with trusty, beautiful Doc as our review process and mediator. (Kids: this is the reason I advocate for making a relationship with a pediatric psych even when you think you don’t need one. She knows us when trouble comes and quickly points us in the right direction.) We’ll use The Contract until she shapes herself up for a few solid months, and then let her go on her own to test it out. If she falters hard enough, a few more grey hairs show up and I feel that face turning blue again, we reinstate.
Here is a link to a certain Momma of a Type 1’s site where you can check out her book which contains the implementation of a driving contract. It’s a great read. And, while I agree with many things she recommends, she also can’t have a clue about what it’s like raising a teen who lives in two homes and has three parents. While there are many pluses to a parental tripod, the accountability, communication and confusion it brings is sometimes maddening. This contract will be our general rules, and when driving comes around (in a year), we’ll fold it into the contract. I suppose dating and sex will have to be a consideration as well.
Burnout sucks for all of us. Teenagers who pull away and test their limits also sucks. It’s normal, and naturally you put your foot down, give reprimands and take things away. But when diabetes is involved and scary shit can happen? You. Make. A. Contract.
This photo is our contract in infancy stage. I’m quite fond of remembering to add a Burnout Monitor section when it’s so easy to forget about as they grow in their diabetes. I’ll let you know how it goes…and maybe with permission post the full contract in the future. Stay sane out there.