Wednesday, December 4, 2013

When Will the World Catch Up?

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!


Valerie T1D mama said...

Good job T1Mama!! I learn alot when I read about your experiences sometimes Im at a loss of words & you help give me something positive to say thanx!
Your Fabolous in everyway the world is slowly figuring that out
<3 T1Mama from NJ to Joel a T1JD hero since 3/15/11

Marjorie said...

It's unfortunatel how often this happens and how it makes them feel. My Amy is the same way lately. If she has her sensor on her arm she wants to wear long sleeves or covers her hand over it while out in the hallway. Her class knows her enough now that she is ok with it there. She has days where she doesn't want anyone to watch her test. She pulls her shirt down and up around her pump so it's covered. She tells me that she isn't embarrassed, that it just the leads to another. One day she said she hates people asking her "what's that." While pointing to her pump. We told her to say "it's my pump" and then when they say "what's a pump" to say " this is it". I've told her she doesn't have to answer any questions that she isn't comfortable with, but if people know she has diabetes, they can help if she ever needs it.

Naturally Sweet Sisters said...

It is frustrating to think about the frequency that our kids are exposed to remarks... not just negative either, but general comments, questions, or even non-verbal stares. Unlike the proverbial 'elephant in the room', I want to teach the girls to acknowledge it and understand how to deal with it. It boils down to self - confidence which is a difficult attitude to maintain during teen years. I think I see lots of discussions just like this in the years to come. Hopefully a little bit of encouragement will stick with each talk. Hugs to you all! I am walking the same journey with each of you! We are all in this together.