True story. A seven-year-old girl comes to her mom after school and says, "We have a new girl in class. Her name is Lexi and she has diarrhea!" "Diarrhea?" the mom asks. "Yeah, diarrhea. And she has to wear something that helps with her diarrhea. And there is a new helper who comes to help her with the diarrhea." "Honey, do you mean diabetes?" "Yeah! That's it! Diabetes!"
My great friend told me that story yesterday about her daughter's new friend at school! It was perfect timing, because the final stop on my “Diabetes Tour of Duty” at school is what I like to call "Kid Talk". This is when I come in and explain Rocco's diabetes to his classmates. So far, the teachers have asked me each year. They like to tell the kids because as we all know, once kids get out all their questions, they don't care anymore.
I am torn about this Kid Talk session for a number of reasons.
I HATE singling him out. I HATE having him take center stage while I explain things that could potentially be used against him in the next mean-kid-teasing-fest. Also, I hate the idea that my audience will only understand about half of what I say (Reference my story above!) and will fill in the rest with six-year-old logic. Offsetting these concerns, Rocco LOVES this day! He gets to sit on my lap, he gets to see me in school and it is all about him for twenty minutes or so.
Last year's meeting was funny! "He will need to get his blood sugar checked. No one else has to do it. It doesn't hurt him," I started. Just when I had them all calm and accepting of this new situation, Rocco blurted out, "Anybody want to get checked?" The room went silent as I stared at twenty discombobbledfaces. Just then, one of the little girls got up and ran to bathroom, crying the whole way... Ugh!
I never know quite how much information to provide. I never want to bite off more than they can chew.
I don't want to scare them, but I want to tell them enough so that they’ll know what to expect. It's a delicate balance.
This year, I decided to keep it simple. I went in and asked "Does anybody know what diabetes is?" One little boy raised his hand proudly and said really loudly, "Diabetes is a dangerous disease that can kill you," OMG!! The next little girl chimed in and said "It means your body doesn't work." OMG!! Again!
I also explained that Rocco is healthy but sometimes needs to have a snack when others aren't eating. I explained how everyone might feel low before lunch or high after too much sugar. But, that doesn't mean you have diabetes or can ever catch it. The kids at this point were listening closely. I explained the difference between Type 1 and Type 2. Four kids had grandparents with Type 2 diabetes. I explained that with Type 2 you might have to just take a pill, but with Type 1 you might have to take shots or get insulin from a pump. I showed them his pump and explained that they should NEVER touch it.
The minute I said the word “shot”, the wheels came off! Several kids raised their hands and told me stories about their immunizations and flu shots. One little girl said her sister found out she was getting a shot and locked herself in the bathroom at the doctor’s office and wouldn't come out. We all laughed but the crowd was getting a little carried away.
At this point Rocco got up and left the group. He came back holding his blood sugar monitor. He opened it up, and without saying a word, he rubbed his finger with alcohol and gave himself a poke. Only a tiny speck of blood came out, so he poked himself again and pushed really hard until a giant drop of blood came out. Satisfied, he held up his bloody finger like he was holding the secret to all things sacred. The entire class said “oooooohhh!” in unison, and I saw him smirk. Obviously pleased because he knew he gathered their attention again. I capitalized on the moment by saying "He is the toughest kid around!" Then I cringed a little as I peeked over at Zeke, hoping that I hadn’t hurt his feelings. I was relieved to see he too was staring at the bloody finger impressed.
Then Zeke stood up and said "Pass the monitor around." Before I knew it, Rocco passed the test strip container to one kid while Zeke passed the blood sugar monitor to another. They reminded me of two elves passing out Santa's presents. I had the wherewithal to take the needle out of the poker when the boys came back to also pass it around. Everyone was grabbing and passing. The kids were starting to ask all sorts of questions, when the teacher politely grabbed up all three tools and said, "OK everyone, I’ll hold these up so everyone can see." At this point, the kids lost interest and one sweet little boy said "How do you get diabetes?" Hmmmm, these kids are good! I replied no one knows, but they are collecting lots of money to try to figure that out. I added, “but I DO know you can't catch it from Rocco." The last comment was from a little girl who has been in Rocco’s class since preschool. She was old hat at this by now. She said "I gave money to diabetes and put Rocco's name on it at Walgreens!" Sweet!
Finally I thanked all the kids and as I walked down the halls of his school, I said "finished" in my head. It has been a long ten days. Well, finished at least until tomorrow when he gets checked at 10 am for his snack.
On a side note: Over the summer, I asked my 13 year old beautiful niece "When does teasing start?" She was bullied for three years so I knew she was the one to ask. Poor baby! I told her of my concerns that the kids might make fun of Rocco for having diabetes just because he would be different than they were. I said I was afraid of them making fun of his pump calling him something terrible like robot boy. As all mothers do, I worry. She stared at me for a second then said "Auntie Shari, kids suck. But they don't suck THAT bad! Lol! So, I wanted to share that with all the other moms out there hat may be worried about the same thing! Thanks to my wise "old" niece I was able to breathe a little easier.