By Maria Cowell, Guest Author
You have to
have a lot of moxie to go by a moniker like Hip Mama. Or some seriously
sophisticated swag and head-turning looks. After all, a hip mama must be some
kind of babe or completely self-actualized woman. But the truth is I am pretty
average in the swag, looks and self-actualization departments. I don't have
much of those. What I do have is a reminder that I am not really in control and
never have been. And I thank God for that.
days of never ending diaper changes and pacifiers (my kids') I happened upon a
book entitled "The Hip Mama's Survival Guide," by Ariel Gore, an
account of one mom navigating her way through early childhood. Her kids’
childhood, not hers.
have two kids and have it all together, so I must be pretty hip myself, "I
thought. In fact, why not proclaim my hipness to the world through a vanity
plate for my kid-toting, red-hot, mini-van?
And so I
did. I order the plates and promptly forgot all about it in my day-to-day life
as a busy young wife and mom.
If type A
personalities are ones who are always in control, always have a plan, always
have everything mapped out, then I was an A+. My life trajectory was simple:
get top grades in high school to get top college scholarships, graduate with
honors, get an awesome job in my field, meet a wonderful guy, have a great
career, the 2.5 kids and white picket fence. By my mid-30s, the trajectory was
right on speed and angle.
the trajectory plummeted.
One day at
MOPS (Mothers-of-Preschoolers) my daughter, Sophie, could not stop asking for
water. She was lethargic and disoriented. We rushed her to the hospital and she
was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Normal blood glucose levels are 80-120.
Hers was 661, a number I will never forget. A number that would have put her in
a coma if we had waited any longer. She was only three.
I entered a
world no parent ever wants to enter. I now had a child with a chronic illness
for which there was no cure. A world of painful finger prickles and intrusive
needles. A world of constant worrying about my child going blind or losing a
limb. What if I messed up the insulin dosage and put her in a coma? I was
after her diagnosis my vanity plates arrived in the mail. HIPMAMA. In bright
blue letters. Mocking me. In my sleep deprivation and crushing fear, I did not
feel very hip. I felt defeated, overwhelmed and out of control. I looked at the
plates and burst into tears. There was no way I was putting those on my van. I
packed them up, ready to ship back to the DMV. They sat on the desk, forgotten,
for over two weeks as I took a crash course in Diabetes Care 101.
gentle, loving way, God reminded me that I had never been in control. He had.
He had been before Sophie was diagnosed and He would continue to be in her
lifetime and mine. It wasn't my supposed hipness or education or anything else
that enabled me to navigate life. It was God's grace and benevolence to me in
all situations good or bad.
So, I put
the plates on and enjoyed them and all the fun chuckles and comments they
inspired. And boy, were there some doozies!
forward ten years and history repeated itself. My 15-year old son, Sophie's
older brother, came down with the same symptoms. We took him in but I did not
need to hear the doctor's diagnosis. I already knew his pancreas was shot. That
night by his bedside at the hospital, I cried, and cried and cried.
Unbelievable! Why is this happening to our family? Why do I have to have two
kids with this horrible disease when other people, awful people, people not as
kind or loving as me, don't have a care in the world?
can't stay at the pity party forever.
eventually have to go home and move on with your life. And in the process of
dealing with the adjustments, I found my own attitudes adjusting. In little
increments, I began to have more empathy for others living in unchangeable
situations. Difficult relationships, chronic illnesses, unfulfilled longings. I
learned to talk less and listen more.
modern technology like insulin pumps and glucose meters, my kids have a fairly
normal life (if adolescents can be termed "normal"). You can't tell
by looking at them that the night before they were crying tears of frustration
about their diet limits, or high sugars kept them vomiting all night. They keep
that to themselves. Likewise, I started understanding for the first time that
we don't always know what is really going on with people, what others wrestle
with in the night watch. They keep that to themselves.We may look normal, but
we all have private struggles and giants facing us down.
want to hyper-spiritualize my kids' situation or trivialize it by saying it was
to teach me a lesson. I don't claim to have such knowledge. Only God knows why
things happen as they do. I just know that the impact on all our lives has
shaped us and helped us trust God more. It has helped me be more sensitive to
And so a
vanity plate that smacks of narcissism is a paradox in my life: a visual of my
humble dependence on God. A daily reminder of the moment I began to realize how
unhip I truly am. And for that reason alone, it's a moniker worth keeping.
the paradoxes in your life? Whether you are a person of great faith, some faith
or no faith, how do you handle the curveballs life throws? I would love to hear
Cowell is a marketing professional at a private K-12 school in Los Angeles, and
a former reporter and editor for newspapers in LA and Glendale. Follow her
musings, meddlings and moments at http://hipmamamedia.com