Sunday, September 25, 2005

In Which My Son Surprises Me, Yet Again

When school began several weeks back-- oh heck, even before then -- I attempted to talk with Joseph about doing a presentation to his class about diabetes. Other moms had told me of their experiences giving these talks. I'd heard things like:

"I went in and had all the kids gather round as I explained the ins and outs of diabetes, using props and illustrations."


"Sure, I had syringes, a vial of insulin, an insulin pen . . . you know, all that kind of stuff."

If only they were just "props."

"Oh the kids loved it, and my son was so pleased with how his classmates responded."

Yes, every time I heard of these little chats, they all seemed to turn out well. But you know, the vast majority of the diabetic kids involved seemed to be a bit younger than Joseph. And that was my only explanation for why he was so resistant to even discussing the idea of me coming in to give a talk about the disease.

Man, I still wince every time I type that word.


I remember the first time I spoke with a mom who referred to her son's diabetes as a "disease." Joseph was only a month out from diagnosis. And I had just read "Growing Up With Diabetes: What Children Want their Parents to Know." In that book, the author encourages readers to refer to diabetes as a "chronic condition" rather than a disease. Thus, when I heard this mom use the "D" word, I cringed, thinking "Why does she keep saying that?! It's just a chronic condition. A chronic condition." I must have felt that calling it something else, and really believing it, would make it so.

Oh well, as I am prone to do, I digress.

So. Giving a talk to Joseph's classmates about diabetes-- a no-go. When I would try to broach the subject with him, his typical response would be "I really don't want to talk about this. We talk too much about diabetes."

Or, "I don't want everyone knowing about this. I kind of like it that some kids get all nervous when they see me checking my blood."

A bit of an explanation here. Joseph's new class is comprised of children he doesn't know all that well. Last year, if he had a low or was feeling high, he had several close friends in which he could confide about the situation. And rely on for help.

I think he's been feeling a little unsettled about not having that base of people he knows he can trust. Last year, he was only two weeks out from diagnosis when he started school. We were all just beginning to learn about the disease and how to manage it. By the time we felt ready to talk with his classmates about it, there was no need. They'd already learned a lot right along with him.

So, when Joseph started school this year and stated, unequivocally, that he did not want me to come in, I felt I had to respect his wishes. Though I didn't like that he wanted to promote a kind of mystery around what he was doing and why.

But then, everything changed. Joseph came home from school last Friday, and out of the clear blue, said:

"Mom, can you come in to class soon and talk with everyone about my insulin pump? So many kids are looking at it, and asking questions like 'what exactly does the insulin do?' And I'm having a hard time answering them. You could tell them about the key thing, you know, like what you told Zachary."

Majorly taken aback, I said "I would love to come in and talk with your classmates."

So, this week, for the first time, I'll give "the talk." I'm a little nervous. Although I've walked through some of this with Joseph's neighborhood friends, explaining, as Joseph put it, "the key thing"-- wherein I liken insulin to a key that "unlocks" the cells in the body, thus allowing glucose from food to get into those cells -- I'd still like to pull together more information. You know, try to help the kids really understand what diabetes is, without scaring them (or Joseph).

Oh, and I'd love to get a really good picture of a pancreas. When I showed Joseph a small illustration of a pancreas I'd found on the web, and explained that it was located just behind and below the stomach, he was shocked.

"Geez, I never really knew where my pancreas was before . . . "

I guess that's a pretty good place to start.


Teresa Kilroy said...

I bet you can get a model and other posters about the pancreas from here:
I got a model ear when I went into Alanna's class last year.


Sandra Miller said...

Thanks for the tip. Since this talk is supposed to happen on Friday, I ended up going to the library in search of a book on human anatomy. I found one with some very nice illustrations of the pancreas.

But I'll keep that website in mind for future reference...