It’s like this:

After a full day’s work and domestic chores, I relax over a cocktail with Bobby and an episode of True Blood with Kaylee. Bobby’s made a fabulous soup. Everything feels okay as the kids go off to bed. I stay up, work some more, look at Facebook, Twitter, drink some tea, go over weekend plans with Bobby. Eyes and brain tired, I wipe the mascara off my eyelashes, splash hot water then cold over my face, floss, brush, moisturize. Smelling of mint and rose, I make one last stop before bed – upstairs, to check Nick’s blood sugar.

When your instinct is to protect your kid from harm, the concept that you’ll get used to repeatedly stabbing him with a needle (a “lancet”) to make him bleed enough so a device the size of a TV remote can convey his health status seems unfathomable. But I do it every night. Insert the strip, take his hand, press the lancet device against the pliable flesh of his middle or pinky finger, sometimes his thumb, push the button – pop! – and then squeeze out enough blood to ensure the meter will read it. For a while, the lancets didn’t work very well. A dull batch, perhaps. I’d have to squeeze and squeeze his finger, afraid I was hurting him even more, and still not enough blood would well up, wasting strips, my patience, his endurance. Thankfully, the latest ones have improved. I am grateful for sharper, more effective implements to use – this is our life?

So tonight, bad news: 391. I program his pump, begin the insulin bolus that should bring his blood sugar down. Another 45 minutes whiled away on the computer. To pick up a book or magazine might result in accidental sleep and we can’t afford that. I return, repeat the test. 382. No good. I have to wake him up for a set change, per medical instructions.

Typically he’s stoic about the diabetes, but the burden taxes even the best-natured kid. As long as everything’s “good,” having diabetes doesn’t interfere with regular living, so we don’t have to think about the level of awareness keeping his blood sugar “good” takes. I don’t know how much he considers this situation he’s stuck with – I don’t know if he mulls it over silently in the dark or just wants to handle it so he can get on with having a good time. He resists being defined by his diagnosis in any way, just conveys a certain matter-of-factness. I ask about his feelings. He shrugs me off. He is a teenage boy first and foremost, a diabetic somewhere further down the list.

From either perspective, being woken up past midnight, already feeling lousy from the hyperglycemia, sucks. Waking up so you can reload your insulin pump and have a fat needle inserted into your back sucks. Diabetes sucks. I would do anything to take this away from him and I can’t. I hate it. And not only can I not fix it, but the best I can offer is inconvenience and repeated jabs. It’s so unfair and I know life is unfair and he could have some worse disease for which there is also no current cure and no way to control it. But tonight, all I care about is how much it hurts him and how little I can do to help.