When you’re the parent of a diabetic, everything comes down to numbers. How many carbs? How much insulin? Blood glucose level? And, when we go to San Francisco, the A1C report.

The A1C reveals the overall status of how the diabetic is managing – or not – his blood sugar. It’s an average of blood sugar levels over the past few months. For someone who doesn’t have diabetes, a normal A1C level can range from 4.5 to 6 percent. Someone who’s had uncontrolled diabetes for a long time might have an A1C level above 9 percent. For most people who have previously diagnosed diabetes, an A1C level of 7 percent or less is a common target. (Mayo Clinic) Nick’s A1C has hovered around 7 percent, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. This visit, as we feared due to all the recent high blood sugars, his A1C was over 8 percent.

It’s not the end of the world, but hearing that number hurt. I avoid worrying about all the long-term potential diabetic complications because I trust that, in Nick’s case, good management will prevent all the dreadful side effects from occurring – it can be done. Advances in technology and education mean lots of diabetics live long, healthy lives. But sitting in that little room in the pediatric clinic, the same one we’ve been in so many times now, all I heard was we’re failing. Sometimes I feel so weak. Like how can I possibly make sure he’s doing everything right while still working and trying to make sure the bills are paid and being a parent to the other kids and you know, doing all that I do? I feel guilty for every moment I spend not parenting, every minute I fail to attend to ensuring all those diabetic-related needs are met, for being distracted by the fact he’s a teenager and making me so crazy sometimes that no wonder I forget and fail on a regular basis. I want to be that super mom, the one who remembers everything, never loses her temper, shepherds her child gracefully into an adulthood where he never makes an ill-fated decision. (And looking amazing the entire time. While finishing up her doctorate.)

But I connected with my cousin whose sailboat is docked at Point Richmond and we went sailing in San Francisco Bay, circling Angel Island and Alcatraz under a gloriously sunny sky. Nick steered the boat almost the whole time, so pleased by the experience he neglected to harangue me for the remainder of the day.

The UCSF clinic sits on one of the city’s many hills, picture windows offering an expansive view of San Francisco sprawling out to the ocean. It’s gorgeous, but not pretty enough to make you forget why you’re there among the other quiet parents waiting with their own children, who are usually either half-watching the omnipresent Disney movie or crying because they want to go, please, can’t we go, Mommy?

The view from the boat was the other side of San Francisco, shimmering blue water leading up to the downtown skyline. Tom cut the motor, so that the only sounds were happy conversation and small waves lapping at the hull. Such a lovely moment to inhabit, such a sense of stepping away from all the worries. The sun and water and islands and skyscrapers proved again the world stays beautiful despite it all, pushed forth a little hope that I can do this, pulled me back from that place of not-okay to maybe-it-will-be.

I’m trying to hold on to that.