She threw open the car door while grumbling and tossing books into the back seat.
As a mother just 'knows', I knew instantly that something had gone astray during her school day.
After the books landed with a thump, she slammed the door and turned to me while taking a deep breath. Quietly (and impressively controlled), she said, "A jerk in PE asked me about the site on my arm."
"OK." I said with a bit of caution not sure where her conversation was leading.
"He said, 'What is that thing on your arm?' and mom, I was like, 'It is my insulin pump site.' Duh! Geez. He made me feel bad." The words were tumbling out of her mouth faster than I could think. Tears welling up in her eyes, she sighed and continued on.
"I felt so self-conscious that I told the teacher that I was cold so that I could go back into the locker room and grab my sweatshirt. Then, I felt dumb because I was sweating and I couldn't take the coat off. It was miserable, mom." As she talked, a couple of fat tears angrily spilled out and raced down her cheeks.
I reached over to wipe the tears away but she moved her face, slightly embarrassed that it got to the point of tears.
Quietly (starting to fill with mommy-bear anger), I said, "I am so sorry. Was the boy teasing you? Was he asking unkindly?"
"No. No. No." She shook her head. "It was just that he asked. Why did he have to ask? We were in line and everyone heard. Then everyone looked. I hated the attention. Just look away if you don't like it."
She explained that he didn't say anything except that and no other student spoke up either.
Carefully so as to not cause any further hurt I tried to explain the situation from another angle; the boy. "Honey, I think he was just curious. Yes, it was thoughtless and rude, but he clearly wasn't even thinking about your feelings. He most likely hadn't noticed your site before and just wanted to know. It doesn't sound like he was teasing or picking on you. Do you think that too?"
"Yes. I guess." Her eyes were cast down and she was sitting with her arms crossed, holding her sweatshirt closed. "It was just embarrassing."
Gently, I explained that I thought it important for her to be kind when someone innocently asked. Perhaps one day, they will meet someone else that lives with type 1 diabetes and it will help them handle a situation better. We talked about a low blood sugar situation that I heard of where a bystander was able to help after seeing an insulin pump.
Listening, she nodded her head in agreement.
Then, I further explained that I knew this was a lot to ask and that she also has every right to a private existence, where she does NOT have to explain to anyone unless she wants to. The key is to understand the difference between someone asking out of natural curiosity and one who is being mean.
"After you told him, what did that boy say?" I asked.
Laughing, she said, "I think I scared him a little. I kind of growled a little and he just said, 'Oh OK.' and backed off."
I hugged her and told her that I knew it was hard to be the center of attention for something that she doesn't necessarily want to be reminded of at the same moment she is doing a fun thing, like P.E. class.
"One more thing though, sweetie. I don't want you to ever feel ashamed of living with type 1 diabetes. You don't have to wear a coat to hide a site or to not have to explain why you have a infusion set on your arm. You are perfect exactly the way you are. It's up to the rest of the world to catch up with you."
C'mon world. Catch up to this amazing young lady!