Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dear Teenager:

My husband and I have a blended family. We have three children in their early twenties, and six children at home, five of them are teenagers. Lately, conversations with friends have organically taken a turn towards the topic of raising teenagers. So many of us are struggling, wanting to do the right thing. In this dispensation, helping a teen find their way in this world without stifling their free agency is a delicate process, and let’s face it…really really hard. Often our help or advice is met with resistance.

Everything I’ve read on the subject says honesty is the best policy. This letter was born of that philosophy. 

Dear Teenager:

You are right. I don’t know everything. And maybe you’re also right, I don’t know more than you; I just know different things than you. But there is something to this growing-up thing that gives one a bit of wisdom. Experience is a wicked teacher, but a teacher nonetheless. There are things I know for certain that I did not know when I was your age. I want to share a few of those things with you today, in hopes of quelling any misunderstandings between us.

1: You are loved. I didn’t know that fully when I was a teen. I thought my parents wanted me to fit into some kind of box. You are not a disappointment. You are cherished.

2: Because you are cherished, I desperately do not want to see you suffer. Unfortunately, this suffering thing is part of life. I can’t protect you from all of it, but I can try to protect you from some of it. When I set boundaries or expectations, it isn’t because I want you to conform; it is because I don’t want you to suffer. I know that there is always an easier path from point A to point B. Easier paths, and a million harder ones…some even torturous. If I stop you on your journey and ask you consider a different path than one you are choosing, it’s because I know the path I’m asking you to consider will bring less suffering if you so choose to take it. How do I know this? Because I have traveled both the easier paths and the harder ones, many many times. I can’t always see the difference between the two at the trailhead, but life has shown me some telltale signs to watch out for. I can help you watch for them.

3: Family inclusion is not meant to punish you. When I ask you to do something with the family it’s because I know we’ll make a memory together. I know that when you grow up you will remember those torturous family times with tender abandon, but those days on your computer will be only an inconsequential blur. Those YouTube videos will bring you no respite and solace in your old age. The memories of the hours spent on your computer will not heal your heart. It won’t give you the sense of belonging that only family can. Your siblings will be your best friends one day, but only if a relationship is established. You need a foundation. As a parent it is my job to provide one for you, and that might mean you going to a restaurant that you don’t like, or seeing a movie you aren’t excited about, or playing a game you think is boring.

4: I’ve made mistakes in my past. Regret is important and teaches us important things. I promise you will look back on your life and wish you had done things differently at this age. I can’t take away those mistakes from you, they will come and in some ways they are essential, but maybe I can soften the landing by helping you work through those mistakes. Maybe I can help you learn the lesson sooner than later. Having to learn the same lesson over and over again is humbling, and miserable. I can make the process easier for you if you let me in. I’m a good listener. Don’t mistake my passion for you as judgment. I want more than anything for you to be happy.

5: Life isn’t always fun. Work is an important part of success. There are many jobs that seem enticing because you get to sit in front of your computer forever. I get that. But to be successful, one needs to learn, and that takes work. And effort. Also, in the grown-up world you have to do things that you don’t want to do, every single day. You will have to work with people you don’t like. You will have to sit through boring diatribes often. Everyone has to do it, so I respectfully ask that you stop trying to excuse yourself from it. If we only had the luxury of working with only those that are likeminded, this world would be a boring place, stripped of creativity. Change demands diversity.

6: I want you to know that consequences are part of every decision you make. The smallest, most trivial decisions have consequences, as well as the big ones. You cannot escape them. Bargaining with your parents or your boss doesn’t have the power to eliminate them. Thankfully, there are not only bad consequences, but good ones too. Cause and effect is real. I know it comes naturally to blame the adults in your life for this natural phenomenon, but alas…consequences are innately embedded in everything you do. Please remember that every decision will have a consequence, and often, there will be an immediate consequence and then another one waiting down the road. After you forgotten about making a decision in the first place…years and years later…there can be a consequence waiting. As an adult, I understand this concept well, as I have seen it manifest itself in my and others lives over and over again. The concept is hard to wrap your head around as a teen. That isn’t a dig…that’s just the way it is. You may be old enough to make your own decisions, but accountability follows, whether you are 17, or 100.

7: I know you are smart. In fact, I dare say you are brilliant. My perspective may be different, and it may not be yours, but it is one worth listening to. This may come as a shock, but the adults in your life don’t like being at odds with you. They want more than anything to effectively communicate with you. You know how you want your perspective to be heard? Adults want that too. I promise to listen to you if you promise to listen to me. I will be sincere; I hope that you will be too. I get frustrated when you are dishonest or when you make excuses. If you are frank with me, you will glean the respect you desire.  I may not be as brilliant as you, but I know when I’m being played. Also, if I ask questions to dig deeper into your answer, it is because I sincerely want to understand your point of view. If I am gobsmacked by your point of view, talk with me about it, not at me. By definition, communication must go back and forth between two people; otherwise it’s just words spewed and nothing good can result.

8: Please see number 1. I'm not perfect, but my love for you is.

All my love,

The adult in your life.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A social experiment

5 years ago this week, I asked my boys a set of questions. Today I ask those exact same questions again. The results follow…

What is your name?

B then: “B”
J then: “J”
L then: “L”

B now: “B. Schuhmacher”
J now: “What is my name?” Me: “I asked you first.” J now: You already know, so there is no reason to answer.”
L now: “L” (Looks at me like I’m an idiot.)

How old are you?

B then: “Ummm…eight.”
J then: “Twelve, soon to be thirteen.”
L then: “Six.”

B now: “13”
J now: “You gave birth to me.” Me now: “This is an interview.” J now: “I didn’t agree to this line of questioning.” (He's 17 btw.)
L now: “11”

When were you diagnosed with diabetes?

B then: “I think I was five years old.”
J then: “When we learned I had diabetes I was 8 months old.”
L then: “Uh I think I was four? Was I four? I was two!? I thought I was four!”
B then: “5 years old I think.”

J now: “These questions are making me reluctant to answer.” Me now: “Do you even know?” J now: “I was 8 months old.”
L now: “Ummm. 9 years ago.”

Do you remember what happened when you were diagnosed or how you felt?

B then: "Not really.”
J then: “Hello, I was 8 months old. No.”
L: “No.”

B now: “I was just kind of like, Whoa. Ok. This is going to be weird.”
J now: “I was given a teddy bear. Put in a helicopter and flown to San Francisco.”
L now: “No.”

Do finger pokes or shots [or site insertions/infusion set changes] hurt?

B then: “No, not really.”
J then: “No.”
L then: “No.”

B now: “Depends on where you do it. But usually doesn’t hurt.”
J now: “Rarely.”
L now: “Yeees.” (The inflection in his voice going down than up.)

What is a high number?

B then: “300 and up.”
J then: “299 and up.”
L then: “378.”

B now: “290-600”
J now: “300 and above”
L now: “A bad number, which can cause ketones, which can cause barfing, which can cause wooziness and headaches and other terrible feelings that aren’t good.”

What is a low number?

B then: “About 90, and below.”
J then: “Under 100.”
L then: “71.”

B now: “110-1”
J now: “Below 100”
L now: “A low number is a number below a hundred.”

What does low blood sugar feel like?

B then: “My legs get wiggly. Sometimes I feel lazy.”
J then: “I feel weak and I can’t really think straight.”
L then: “It feels like your legs are tired, and your knees are tired. But sometimes it is hard to feel a low.”

B now: “You get kind of shaky and lightheaded. It’s just kind of a unique feeling that you get.”
J now: “I feel lightheaded and hungry. And I can’t focus on anything, like I have ADD.”
L now: “It makes you feel woozy, dizzy, feeling tingly a lot, and ummm…what else? Feeling so tingly it just doesn’t feel so good.”

What’s your favorite way to treat a low?

B then: “Eating a snack of course!”
J then: “Apple juice.”
L then: “Hmmm…cookies.”

B now: “Good food. Delicious food.”
J now: “Food.”
L now: “By eating fruit snacks or Yogos.” Me: “They don’t make Yogos anymore. They haven’t for years.” L: “But they used to. And if they made them, I’d use them.”

How do you feel when your blood sugar level is high?

B then: “Angry, and I need to go pee a lot.”
J then: “Angry, I have a headache and I’m thirsty and I have to go to the bathroom.”
L then: “Uhhh, well, I drink a lot of water, and I breathe out and in a lot.”

B now: “Well, you get really thirst, that’s the main thing you notice. You go to the bathroom a lot. And if you go too high, you get really bad stomach aches.”
J now: “I get a headache, I feel pukey and pissed.”
L now: “Umm. I feel a bit…depends, how high?” Me now: “Really high.” L now: “Ok then: if it’s really high, I’ll get ketones and barf. Also, headaches, wooziness and other bad things.”

What’s the best thing about having diabetes?

B then: “Getting Lawton!”
J then: “I get my Lala!”
L then: “You get an awesome pump, you get to eat carbs, and you get a Lala. HE is the cutest dog, come on!”
(Lawton was our alert dog. He would alert on Highs and Lows. He was awesome back in the day. He still is, but he’s retired from “working.”)

B now: “Special privileges. Like, some places you get to skip the line. And Dogs4Diabetics is like the best program ever.”
J now: “It will always be Lawton.”
L now: (After a lot of thought.) “Eating during class.”

What’s the worst thing about having diabetes?

B then: “Having to test my sugar all the time.”
J then: “That I have to test my sugar ALL the time.” (At this point he isn’t happy his answers are so close to B’s.)
L then: “The worst thing, oh, THAT thing…if I was at zero, that would be the worst thing. If I fell down and hurt myself when I was low that would be worst too.”

B now: “The stress of constantly needing to test your blood sugar”
J now: “High blood sugars”
L now: “All the shots.” (First question answered with absolutely no hesitation.)

Do you worry much about diabetes?

B then: “ehhh…sometimes.”
J then: “No.”
L then: “”

B now: “Sometimes”
J now: “Sometimes”
L now: “Umm, yeah.”

If one of your friends were diagnosed with diabetes, what would you say to that friend?

B then: "I would say everything is alright. And I’d tell him how to take care of his diabetes.”
J then: “It’s not so bad.”
L then: “I would tell him I have diabetes too.”

B now: (Singing) “I can show you the world… Joking. I can help you with your diabetes if you need any help.”
J now: “You have it too.”
L now: “I will teach you the basics.”

What’s your favorite food?

B then: “Ummm…probably…ahhhh…pizza.”
J then: “Shrimp Burritos!”
L then: “Hmmm…cookies! No, not cookies, mashed potatoes with gravy!”

B now: “What kind of question is that? Umm. Teriyaki Chicken, actually.”
J now: “Hamburgers”
L now: “That’s a hard one. I don’t really have one. I’m going to go with spicy burritos.”

What’s your favorite snack?

B then: “Apple chicken sausage.”
J then: “Sausage. Chicken Pineapple…ahh…that is my favorite. Any kind with pineapple.”
(Can you tell what we had for our afterschool snack today?)
L then: “Granola bars!”

B now: “Define snack. Like small food? Ok. Probably a quesadilla.”
J now: “Leftovers”
L now: “Do cookies count?”

What’s your favorite low-carb food?

B then: “Fish.”
J then: “Omi’s fish.”
L then: ((Eyebrows furrowed.)) “Cookies!” (We need to work on that one! I asked him if cookies have carbs and he said yes. So then I asked him to give me a favorite food with NO carbs and he said chicken.)

B now: “Steak. I’m a meat eater. Don’t judge me.”
J now: “Low carb? Ummm. Steak.”
L now: “I’d say eggs.”

Do you know what a blog is?

B then: “Like, somewhere where people write what is happening.”
J then: “A blog is a big website that people can go to as they wish to catch up on whatever the creator of the blog writes.”
L then: “Blog? What is that? No.”

B now: “Yes.”
J now: “Yeah.”
L now: “Sorta. It’s like writing out things that happen during your day. And you want to tell people about it.”

Do you know that I blog about diabetes?

B then: "yeah.”
J then: “Yes.”
L then: “No.”

B now: “What do you think? Yeah!”
J now: “Noooo. I don’t know that, Mom” (All sarcastic like with a stupid big smile on his face.)
L now: “You do?!!” Me now: “WHAT!! You don’t know that I have a blog?!” L now: “You never told me!!” Me now: “Are you serious. You don’t know that I have a blog called Our Diabetic Life?” L now: “I thought it was a site that you made on the Internet. I didn’t know it was a blog.” (I suspect now that he watches “Dog with a blog” on Disney channel it’s clicking what I really do.)

Do you care?

B then: “Not really.”
J then: “Not really.”
L then: “No. I don’t even know what it is!”

B now: “Kinda. You’re making a difference. And helping people.”
J now: No
L now: Shrugs. “No.”

Why do you think I blog about diabetes?

B then: "So everyone knows how I am doing, and they can give me advice.”
J then: “To help people who have kids with diabetes, so they don’t have to go through the same stress you did. And it’s fun for you.” :)
L then: “To meet new pen pal friends.” (Hi Joe, :)

B now: “To help other people and to teach people it’s not pronounced Dia-bet-us. That was a joke. But yeah, to educate.”
J now: “To let your anger out? Your frustration about taking care of three children with diabetes.” (Said in uber dramatic fashion.)
L now: “To keep track of us and our diabetes? Yeah.”

What’s your biggest wish?

B then: “To have a swimming pool.”
J then: “5 more wishes.”
L then: “Oh, having a swimming pool.”

B now: “I don’t know. Like, maybe, no more diabetes, and to make myself actually productive in my every day life.”
J now: “Does it have to be real, or possible? No? Okay. Either the power to control time or the absolute knowledge of everything.”
L now: “I could find a cure for diabetes.”

Who’s your best friend?

B then: "My friend is (A boy from school).”
J: “A boy from school.”
L then: “A boy from school.” (I don’t use MY boys names, so I thought I better not use theirs.)

B now: “Well. There are my bros from California that I still hang with over the magic of the Internet.”
J now: “M”
L now: J, my friend from California.

What do you like about him/her/them?

B then: “He is funny, sporty, and always nice to me.”
J then: “He is really nice and funny.”
L then: “Uhh, he is awesome.”

B now: “Well, they can always bring me up when I feel down. And they make me feel better about myself. They compliment me a lot.”
J now: “He’s my brother, he’s not annoying.”
L now: “I like that fact that he’s always there for me.”

What’s your favorite thing to do?

B then: “Probably, playing handball.”
J then: “Video games and biking with my dad.”
L  then: “Bike ride.”

B now: “That’s a very open question. Umm. Probably, umm…hanging with my friends online, or in person. And swimming and stuff.”
J now: “Read or play video games or watch videos.”
L now: “Go to the beach.”

Do you have a hero?

B then: “No.”
J then: “Yes, Dad.”
L then: “Yes, J.”

B now: “Not really. Except you.” (Does that give me mom points?)
J now: “Batman.” (Said in Batman’s voice.) Me now: “Come on.” J now: “I don’t really have a hero.”
L now: “I’d say that’s you and Doug.”

What do you want to be when you grow up?

B then: “I want to be a baker. No, not a baker. Probably, an astronaut.”
J then: “I want to be in sales like dad.”
L then: “I want to be a teacher.”

B now: “A guy that has a high paying job, and at least has a pretty good education.”
J now: “Millionaire.”
L now: “A scientist so I can find a cure. Unless they found it, then I would be a regular guy working a steady job.”

Who’s your favorite person in the whole wide world?

B then: “My family.”
J then: “Does it have to be one person? Ummm…my family.”
L then: “Oh that, why do I have to say this again? J!”

B now: “It’s a lose/lose question. If I say you, you’ll think I’m sucking up to you. If say someone else, you’ll be unhappy about that too.” Me now: “Not true.”  
B now: “Basically I don’t really have a favorite person.”
J now: “Me.” Me now: “Is that your final answer?” J: “I don’t know. Ummm. Yeah, I don’t know.”
L now: “It’s a tie between you and dad. (Ryan.)”

Are you afraid of anything?

B then: “I’m a little afraid of heights.”
J then: “Huge giant spiders crawling on me and snakes that are not in cages.”
L then: “Yeah. I’m afraid of bats.”

B now: “Yes. Spiders. Also, jump scares. I really hate jump scares.”
J now: “Yes. Snakes.”
L now: “I’m afraid of not having the proper supplies to take care of my diabetes.” Me now: “That will never happen, you know that right?” L now: “Well, yeah. Sorta.” Me now: “I would never let that happen.  You know that, right?” L now: “Yeah.”

Fill in the blank. (Your name) is___________. There is no right or wrong answer.

B then: “Really nice.”
J then: ((DEEP THOUGHT)) “Hungry.”
L then: “A boy! “

B now: “Very strange on most occasions.”
J now: “Better than everyone else. Wait, I want to change that. J is number Juan! What did I say last time?” Me now: “Hungry.” J now: “Whoa, I am hungry! Put that down too. How did I know? I must be a wizard. 
L: “Usually sleepy.”

Teenagers are super fun.