Thursday, September 12, 2013

Odd Man Out

I walked up to the backyard gate, unlatched it, and stopped dead in my tracks, I was very surprised to see Connor sobbing on the swing chair located at the entrance.  I looked toward the back part of the backyard where the playground is located and viewed all of the other children playing and laughing with one another.  I assumed that his isolation was due to bad behavior, so I immediately asked the summer camp counselor, "OH NO, WHAT DID HE DO?!?"  He actually put himself there she replied, I'm really sorry, but I gave all of the children popsicles and as Connor began to eat his I realized that he couldn't have it so I literally grabbed and took it from him!"  The counselor said, "we can't console him, he wants to sit by himself."  Through the sobs he said "Mommy, she doesn't like me, she gave everybody else popsicles and she took mine, she doesn't like me!"  Trying to explain to a 4-year-old that an adult had your best interest at heart, and your blood sugar was her top concern was proving to be very difficult.  I sat on that swing chair with Connor while he sobbed in my arms and I told him that I'd get him a popsicle on our way home, problem solved I thought to myself.  The cries didn't stop.  I offered to get him donuts on the way home, but the cries just wouldn't stop.  I promised him any candy of his choice, but nope, that didn't work either.  I realized at that moment that it wasn't the actual popsicle that caused his heartache, it was the ostracism in front of his friends, it was the exclusion from the treats that all of the other children received, and I knew that this wouldn't be the last time that my sweet boy felt 'different' due to his diabetes.  I tried VERY hard to hold back tears as I consoled him, I knew that the disease wasn't going away and it was at this very point since his diagnosis that he was fully cognizant about his differences from his peers.....and I can't protect him from that.  What can you say to make his tiny heart feel better, I thought?  That, I didn't know.  I was taught how to manage his blood sugars in the hospital, but wasn't taught how to deal with the psychological and emotional ramifications of this disease.
During our trip home, Connor was thoroughly confused and saddened as to why he was singled out and wasn't allowed to have a treat, so I explained it to him, over and over and over again.  We arrived at the McDonald's drive-thru 30 minutes later, "1 small M&M McFlurry please!"  I looked in my rear-view mirror and finally saw a small smile emerge on my boy's face.
That afternoon was the afternoon that Connor grieved his diagnosis & differences, and somewhere in that little 4-year-old mind came greater acceptance of his disease; he may not be able to have a popsicle with his peers, but he'll eventually get an M&M McFlurry and life WILL be okay.

We recently visited my cousin, Pat, at her home in Maryland for a family get together.  Pat has 3 sons, 2 of which were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at a very young age.  Pat's sons are grown now and I never realized what an instrumental role they'd play in Connor's life.  During our visit, Pat encouraged both of her sons to show Connor how they check their blood sugar and require insulin just like him.  Ohhhhh booooy, I saw Connor's eyes light up like a Christmas tree as he watched intently as both of Pat's sons checked their blood and administered shots.  Connor has not stopped talking and asking about Pat's sons for 2 weeks now.....he loved that the "big boys" (as he refers to them), were not only playful and fun, but they had diabetes too.  It was the first time since his diagnosis that he was exposed to someone JUST LIKE HIM, psychologically he feels like he's not so different anymore, there are others with the same diagnosis, he is no longer the odd man out.  Since seeing them, he has taken more ownership of his diabetes, he now checks his own blood sugar and has been much more compliant about shots.  Yay!

We met 3 boys roughly Connor's age at a local park today that are all Type 1 diabetics.  Between the intense heat and me being exhausted from chasing my young daughter around, we didn't get to stay for long.  My intentions are to get these boys together for future play-dates, I want Connor to develop friendships with children that understand him and can serve as a reminder that he is not alone in this world.

This song is for my Connor......

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