Oldest Daughter asked for a book.
She is in seventh grade and while she is a great student, extracurricular reading is not always the first thing that she chooses in terms of hobbies as she would rather practice hair, do her nails or send friends Instagram messages. So when she requested a new book, I did what any deliriously happy parent would do and RAN to Amazon to have it shipped in two days, lest she forget the request. With this age group, timing is everything!
The book arrived in time for her to open the box afterschool on a Thursday. By Friday, she was 150 pages in and would have tried to finish if it were not for other scheduled weekend events. On Sunday night, I caught her in her room, flashlight in hand and unwilling to part with the book without more than a few angry words, which I wisely overlooked.
And really, what I wanted to tell her was that if it weren't for a pesky 6:00 a.m. wake-up call for school, I might have even overlooked her lack of sleep to let her finish.
On Monday evening, with tears streaming down her face, she came to me and layed the book in my hand and scooted onto my lap. She is almost as tall as me and in recent months, has a look about her which is far more mature than her actual age. Anytime I can get a hug like this, I hold tight and try not to think about my legs slowly numbing under the pressure. For a split second, she is my baby again.
"Mom", she said slowly, letting the snuggle take full effect in reducing her tears.
As I push her wildly beautiful curls off her forehead, just as I have done for all of her years, I softly said, "Yes, sweet girl. What is it?"
She looked at me with sad eyes and said, "He died, mom. Died. Why?" She paused and asks again. "I don't know why it had to happen. He was just a kid."
I knew that she was referring to her book and nodded my head. As I listened to her describing the characters that seemed so real, I could see her grief was as powerful as though it were truly a friend. People blessed with the love of reading will understand that GREAT books will do that to you.
What I didn't do is offer a comparison to her life with Type 1 Diabetes. As tempting as it was to add in a minor comment about how 'lucky' she was, I knew full-well that would be unfair. Her struggles with T1d are personal and when they flare, to discount them or belittle their existence would be hurtful.
Surprisingly though, she drew a similar conclusion on her own, without my prompting.
"Mom", she said with eyes still damp and dewey. "I know it could be worse for me and (Youngest Daughter). I know it. I have thought about it a lot. Especially when she (main character) said she couldn't go up the stairs. Just a few steps, mom. She was out of breathe."
Then, while averting my gaze, Oldest Daughter looked away and said, "But I also know how she felt when for a small minute that she didn't have to wear her oxygen tank. She had to disconnect from it to go through security. And sometimes, I feel like that too. Sometimes, I want to be free of my pump and from having to deal with this. I want a cure too."
I kept stroking her hair and nodding my head. The tricky part of parenting is never knowing exactly how you should handle those tough conversations.
Gently, I reached down to plant a kiss on her forehead and what I left her with was this...
"I think you just discovered the importance of what we want to do in this world. We want a cure for not just type 1 diabetes, but for all of the millions of other things that affect kids and adults. It's a big task but just by knowing that there is more than we realize out there, you can help make a difference. From now on, you will carry with you, the knowledge that many kids struggle with all sorts of things... some hidden, some obvious and some even invisible. What you can do now, is to try to reach out and be the BEST YOU. Be kind, be welcoming, be helpful and be compassionate. It will make a difference."
She nodded her head and offered a small smile.
Then she said, "Can you get me another book?"