Monday, January 23, 2006

A Not-So-Nice Friend Story

Last week, I read Allison's wonderful post relating a very touching conversation that illustrates the value of a sensitive, caring friend.

Someone who "actually gives a damn" about the needs of a friend with diabetes.

Frankly, the post struck a chord -- big time -- when Joseph was confronted with a stark contrast to its contents just three days later.

He called at the usual time to give me his pre-lunch sugar, sounding a little unhappy-- this, despite the fact that his bg was just fine.

So I asked if something was wrong.

"Yeah, Mom. Sam's mad at me, and I really don't know why."

Sam is one of Joseph's closest friends, a boy with his own troubles (his parents divorced almost two years ago) who comes to our house at least once a week.

Joseph likes Sam very much.

"Joseph, have you asked what's buggin' him?"

"Yeah, but he just keeps acting all annoyed. I apologized, even though I don't know what for, but he's still just acting all mad. He was teasing me while I was playing this game on the computer in class, saying--

'Nick is better than Joseph. Nick is better than Joseph.'

It was weird."

I agreed. That was kind of strange. These boys are almost inseparable in class.

"Well, honey... try not to let it bother you. Sam might just be in a funky mood today."

And with that, Joseph went off to lunch.

But then...

Joseph called back 30 minutes later to confirm his bolus.

This time, he sounded upset.

"Mom, Sam's being a real jerk! At lunch, Kristel gave me her chicken teriyaki and rice... you know how that's my favorite? Well, I got to eat two of them today."

I could feel him smiling through the phone as he said this.

But then, just as quickly, I knew the smile was gone.

"Hey, that sounds pretty cool to me."

"Yeah, I know. That was great, but Sam wanted more chicken teriyaki, too. He was sitting at another table and saw that I got more, and... "

This is when his voice caught.

"... he just started saying really loud--

'Joseph thinks he's special cause he's got Di - a - beeee - tees.'

Over and over, real slow. Just like that."


"You know how I can take most teasing, but I really don't like it if anyone teases me about my diabetes? Well that's what Sam did... and I just don't know why."

The desperation in his voice was unmistakable.

And with that desperation, came the fury of a mother who wanted, more than anything else, to ring the neck of the child who her hurt her son. A child who has watched Joseph struggle through countless highs and lows.

I wanted to have a "chat" with Sam. Because, by God, it was almost unfathomable to me that a FRIEND would taunt my son about his disease.

A close friend.

Yes, he's only ten. But come on.

So, as Joseph continued telling me how this hurt him... how Sam told him after lunch that he was "getting [Joseph] back for 3rd grade," but refused to tell him anything more than that...

As my son continued to unload his pain and confusion, I struggled to pull myself together. To remember that I'm a mother, not a vigilante. That I need to help him deal with this kind of thing, because it will surely not be the last time someone teases him about having diabetes.

But damn it, why'd it have to be his friend?

"Joseph, Sam's got something going on. Maybe he felt left out because you were playing with other kids on the computer this morning. Maybe something's going on that we're not even aware of. Regardless, what he said to you was wrong. And, while we can try to understand it, there's still no excuse for it."

"Yeah, mom. I know."

"I know you know. But you need to let Sam know."

And so he did.

Later that afternoon, he confronted Sam about what he had said. According to Joseph, Sam apologized and now they're "okay."

I was glad to hear it.

But here we are, days later, and (though I haven't told Joseph) I'm still upset.

My son just doesn't need this kind of hurt.


Caro said...

With friends like that...

Sandra, I think it is very natural for you to still feel upset. Kids have this incredible ability to bounce back and forgive - I know I did when I was younger. But now, if someone makes these kind of comments it seems a whole lot harder to let go.

You have reminded me of a time when I was about 9 or 10 - Joseph's age. There was a kid in my class at school who liked to pick on people. She picked on me from time to time, but not about diabetes. Then one afternoon I overheard the teacher telling her how she should really be nicer to me cos I had "a tough enough time having to deal with diabetes." It was like this kid had suddenly got the go ahead to taunt me about that. And she did. Until she got bored, and moved on to someone else.

And I bounced back pretty quick.

Mind you, I had a harder time forgiving the teacher!

Penny said...

This one brought tears to my eyes and I don't even know Joseph. If you can't count on your friends then who can you count on? I totally understand how you feel. I would have trouble getting over this one myself.

Keith said...

This is exactly the reason I always played the diabetes card VERY close to my chest. I commend you for taking such good care of Joseph with the mid-day testing and bolusing/correcting you do. I don't know if there is any way to make this less visible to the other kids, if there is then I would do it. Seems like children have a hypersensitive radar that tracks the minutest difference in other children and then they exploit that difference to their greatest advantage, regardless of what it does to others. Unfortunately, and I hate to say it, this is likely to become more problematic as he approaches and enters junior high.

I think your correct that the root cause of this problem is Sam's parents divorce. I bet you've been having Sam in your home, not only because he's Joseph's friend, but you're trying to reach out to him because of the situation his parents put him in. So you feel doubly hurt--he stabbed Joseph and he stabbed you!

I've probably said too much on this subject (and I'm just getting started), but my youngest son has dwarfism and we have been down very similar roads. I know exactly how it feels!

Allison said...

Aw, Sandra, I'm sorry.

Not that I did anything wrong, but still. I'm sorry you two have to go through this.

It's unfortunately a common side affect of being a child with a chronic illness. Jealousy. It's mean fierce. Joseph was very brave to talk with his friend. He's going to need to learn how to do this. We need to stand up for ourselves, because some people just don't get it.

::Hug:: One for you. ::Hug:: One for Joseph.

Kerri. said...

I agree - your son doesn't need this kind of hurt. Not in the slightest.

And, quite frankly, neither do you.

Jealousy is oftentimes an issue between young diabetics and their friends. (I'm drafting a post describing a nasty incident I experienced as a kid, inspired by your post today.) It cuts so deeply.

You guys have my empathy and unfortunate understanding. And I offer up my hugs from snowy RI.

Tekakwitha said...

Ouch. That's got to be really hard Sandra.

Hang in there.


Jamie said...

Your post really got to me. You are experiencing things well before I am having to - but eventually, we will no doubt be going through a situation that is very similar.

I think you and Joseph handled yourselves quite commendably. Despite how angry you were - you didn't provoke things more by saying something that would get Joseph all fired up as well.

We do have to remember that kids are kids though. You don't have to have Diabetes to be taunted or picked on - you could have a funny shirt on, you could have "no-name brand" running shoes on, you could have an out of date haircut. It doesn't take much for kids to be targets of other kids and be teased about it. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done about Diabetes - and for that, there is no excuse for teasing.

I'd have a hard time biting my tongue - as parents we are so protective about our children and sensitive to their feelings that you want to sheild them from any more pain that life throws at them. I know having Dani diagnosed has made me more sensitive to these things - not sure if it's a good thing or not, but we'll see when our first "incident" arises - hopefully I can handle it as smoothly as you did.

Hugs to you and Joseph.

Shannon said...

I know well the fury of a mom and I'm super sensitive to how Brendon is treated by others when it comes to his diabetes. I know it's hard to let go of what happened and it's great that you aren't letting on to Joseph that it still bothers you.

You're doing a great job to let this conflict be between the kids and not get involved.

It's hard being an armchair quarterback when you just want to get in there and tackle the kid who hurt Joseph.

I'm steeling myself against the day that Brendon comes home and tells me someone taunted him about his diabetes.

Vivian said...

I am right there with you. It sucks!


Elizabeth Snouffer said...

I thought of something that may help you in this process of watching Joseph grow-up and having to deal with daughter had some teasing issues last week...not related to diabetes but very hurtful all the same.

Having diabetes as a child is a huge responsibility...for the child. Joseph is having to grow up a lot faster than other children, and because of this he will have a greater capacity to understand more complex issues. I remember dealing with my own mortality at 10 - and wondering about death. Not in a morbid sense, but in an intellectual way.
This doesn't mean he isn't allowed to be a child - no way! But with your love and support, he will be just fine and in some ways, much stronger.

christy214 said...

There is probably a deeper issue with Joseph's friend, and this friends attack on Joseph was more about jealousy and attention. He might be jealous of the great supporting and loving family Joseph has,and that saying misery loves company...his friend is just hurting and looking for attention to feel better, and can't find a way to reach out in a positive way.
I am glad, Joseph was able to express his hurt and that they were able to take a step and mend their friendship.

Alicia said...

Hi Sandra,

It's great, like someone else said, that your son and his friend were able to resolve their issues and move on, but if I were you I'd definitely still be worried. Teasing is terrible, but it hurts even more coming from a trusted friend. I would watch this closely, and if it happens again maybe talk to Sam's parents. Or maybe even take Sam aside and ask what the deal is. Normally I don't think it's a good idea for parents to get too involved in their children's friendships, but in a case like this where a child is acting uncharacteristically cruel, some adult intervention could be justified. If it continues. Hopefully it was just a 'one-off' for Sam and it won't happen again.

Sandra Miller said...

Thanks for all of the support and suggestions.

Kevin's comment really highlights the fact that we're dealing with a delicate balance here -- between educating/facilitating understanding and keeping my son from becoming a target.

Not easy. For any of us.