I told Daniel that he had an appointment on Monday to get a flu shot. "Why?" "Because you are in a high-risk group." "What's that?" "You have diabetes. It's a chronic disease. People with chronic diseases need to make sure they are protected from things like flu."
He blinked at me, and with a tinge of teenage angst said, "Geez, I have to get a shot?"
"You're already getting three shots on Monday. What's one more?"
But we all know it's not the shot. It's the label. Diabetes, high risk, chronic.
How did I think of myself as a teenager? Daniel is 14, and I remember thinking when I was 10 or so that 14 was just one step away from adulthood. Of course when I got to 14 and saw how many years I had to go, I was a little grumpy. But now, looking back with mom-perspective, I see that 14 really is one step away from adulthood. Anyone with kids knows how time speeds up as soon as they are born. You blink, and they are in puberty. One blink away from college, moving out, marriage. Yikes!
But 14 -- that's an age that should be fearless. A year of changes, taking on high school ambitions, reshaping your thoughts of the world and your own special place in it. It's an age where suddenly dozens of roads of opportunity appear in your life, and the hardest part is picking a future to explore.
I don't want diabetes or celiac to limit Daniel's roads. I don't want it to cage his thoughts, restrict what he believes his opportunities to be. It is a burden to bear, to be sure. Just an extra backpack to carry on whatever path it is he chooses to take. As we move through this journey and gain knowledge and experience with diabetes & celiac, I work constantly to carry these labels in their proper pockets, rather than building them up as barriers to cross.
I know that someday Daniel will choose a path apart from mine. When that happens, I will send him off with the sturdiest hiking shoes, words of wisdom, care packages, and buckets of love. I will trust that he can take care of himself, while at the same time pray that he finds a life partner to walk with him. I spend a lot of time visiting the diabetes & celiac OCs, gathering knowledge that I pass along, and sharing the burden that our family carries with so many of you, who understand what I'm feeling.
How does that old blessing go?
May the roads rise to meet you.
May the wind be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
The rain fall soft upon your fields
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.