I never really stood a chance. Unwavering overprotection runs deep on all sides of my family. My great grandmother was only allowed to wear one roller skate at a time until she was 12.
In my family, we were told you could die doing anything. “Stop jumping on the bed! You’re going to fall off, break your neck, and die!” “Do not put those marbles anywhere near your mouth! You could choke on them and die!” “Don’t turn the page of that book so fast! You could get a paper cut, it could get infected, and then you’ll die!”
It’s no secret that this is also my parenting style. Everything terrifies me to my very core, and in a way that’s super unhealthy. If my husband and I plan to take our kids swimming, the night before I stay awake all night, stressing about the terrors of drowning.
But then something huge happened. It was something I wasn’t able to protect my child from. My son, Piet, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at just 21 months old. There was literally nothing I could have done differently or protected him in any way. It was just his destiny.
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic illness, where the immune system kills the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas. The perils that are attached to T1D are endless, and it takes constant monitoring, 24 hours per day, every single day. There are no breaks or vacations.
I count every carbohydrate he eats and inject a correlating amount of insulin via syringe or his insulin pump. I am constantly checking his blood sugar, making sure it is in range. If his blood sugar goes too low, it could lead to seizures, coma, and even death. If his blood sugar is high for an extended period of time, he could slip into diabetic ketoacidosis, which is also life threatening and requires a hospital stay.
There is no way I could have maintained my over-the-top overprotection parenting AND manage Type 1. So, I was forced to loosen my grip. I began by practicing cleansing breaths, and slowly took on a new outlook on life. If my son was going to have a chronic illness, and there was nothing I could have done to stop it, then I needed to let my children enjoy their lives.
Of course, I’m still a little overprotective. No one is allowed to jump on beds, play with marbles, or vigorously turn pages… But, maybe someday, kids. Maybe someday.