There are times when parenting is hard. Surprisingly, it is not the times where I am disciplining, directing or even disapproving (imagine all sort of situations where any of those might apply and I have probably had to deal with it from toddlerhood to teens).
Hard times within parenting seem to come when I am the least prepared of what to say or how to react to what I am hearing. Getting to the truth - in my child and even in myself - is at times, the hardest of all.
"Yes, your goldfish has died. I'm so sorry. Swimmy lived a good life. No, he can't wake up or swim or be alive."
That situation actually happened. And it happened about five times over as we became 'that goldfish murdering family' that somehow, despite about $200 in gear, replaced twenty-five cent fish on a weekly basis. Our hopes of having at least one survivor and even better, a happier ending to our week were dashed again and again. Sadly, we had to explain the truth of the Swimmy situation to the sweet little faces that stared hopefully into the bowl.
And wow, was it hard. There were tears and I know we needed some time to sort through it. Even with fish, there is a natural process of grief and overcoming loss. To this day, our youngest, the most affected, talks lovingly about her Swimmy x5.
A few weeks ago, our daughter wore a pair of new shoes to school. Much walking around the large campus ensued and by the end of the day, an angry blister appeared. As she is a teen, the thought to share what had happened to mom, didn't occur for a second. Despite the discomfort of wearing the shoes, a second day of walking prevailed in the name of fashion.
I'm underlining this for myself as she is a teenager and I am sure I did the same thing. Raising daughters has reminded me time and time again of what I did to my mother. If you haven't called or begged forgiveness from your mom, this is your reminder too!
By the third day, the sore looked angry and felt feverish as a slight infection had started to work into the cut. Not properly cleaned or bandaged, while playing her golf, a bit of dirt and debris had managed to infect the heel. In addition, a second and third area near the toe had started to blister. Later, we found out that socks were not worn as it would have ruined the look.
Again, go call your mother. You are sorry. I don't even know what for. But I am sure we all did the same thing.
Tempted as I was to just release the shoes into the glorious secret parenting holding area called the garbage can, I decided to have a truthful conversation about the need to be careful with sores and especially sores on the feet. The first go was full of gentle reminders of how to clean a wound, how to avoid complicating the sores by taking a break from the shoes and ultimately the ability to understand that some shoes are just cheaply made and may not ever fit well.
While rolling her eyes and shaking her head', she wanted me to know that I was over-reacting. More than anything, she wanted me to know that she had it all under control and that she was already aware of the situation and had planned a way to manage it so she could still wear the shoes. When pressed, there was no plan and no attempt to do anymore than to keep wearing the shoes because they went with everything. Plus, she had gotten compliments - which in highschool is the equivalent to a raise.
Here's the thing, I could have gotten mad, lost the message and focused on her attitude but I knew that it was probably time to come come clean and share the reality of T1D complications like diabetic neuropathy.
When she calmed down, we went to the computer together and looked up preventative foot care for diabetics and spent some time discussing how a situation like a simple cut on a toe can spiral out of control into a long term issue with devastating consequences.
She explained that while she knew some of that from things that I had said, she didn't really believe me until we read it together. Just like when we were preparing for Paris and I insisted on wearing our valuables in a protective cross-body bag, only when she witnessed pick-pocketing near a train station, did she believe that it could (and did) happen.
This is how a teen really thinks. If anyone ever wanted the answer to how to get them to listen and respond, you must first acknowledge the truth.
It wasn't the conversation that I wanted to have. I think one of my protective measures with parenting T1D is to avoid scary issues around all of the 'what-ifs' and 'could happens'. However, the reality is that I have a teen that is now at the age where her care is shifting more into her own hands and less into mine. It took three full days for me to understand the effect of the shoes and if it hadn't hurt to the point of limping, I might not have been aware until even later.
Teaching is the acknowledgement of not just what we hope for, but what we know to be truth. Even if it is hard.