Monday, November 13, 2006

Tags

I'm sitting at the computer paying bills when Joseph walks in the room.

"Mom, do we have any more dog tags?"

"I'm not sure-- why?"

"Well, I need a new one," he responds quietly.

I stop what I'm doing, turn away from the laptop screen, and look up at my son's face.

He's trying to look casual-- and failing miserably.

"What's goin' on, Bud?"

"This one is all bent," he says, holding out a silver dog tag attached to the chain hanging from his neck.

I lean over and immediately see that the metal tag is misshapen-- two large ripples now run across its surface.

"How did this happen?" I ask, a little shocked.

"Well, I was standing outside music with the rest of my class, and this kid -- L -- starts singing real loud so I tell him -- 'Be quiet-- you're makin' too much noise' -- mom, he really sounded bad, and it was annoying."

I've seen L before-- he's a big kid-- much bigger than Joseph.

"Okay, so then what happened?"

Joseph turns his head away for maybe a second or two-- still holding his dog tag between the thumb and fingers of his left hand.

When he starts talking again, it all comes out in a rush:

"He walked up to me and grabbed my dog tag, and started saying-- 'Hey, what's this, huh? Looks like plastic to me,' and then he just stood there lookin' at me, holding my dog tag in his hand, and then he squeezed it in his fist really hard . . . I don't know why he had to do that. "

"Honey, did you tell him what the dog tag means-- that it's your medical ID?"

"NO. It was just so STUPID!"

And now Joseph is fighting to keep from crying.

And I'm furious. Who is this boy? And what the hell is he doing with my son's medical ID?

I want to smack him.

Hard.

It takes me a few seconds to calm down, and a few more to calm Joseph.

"Bud, I'm thinkin' it's time for us to have a talk about diabetes with your class . . .

And for me to have a talk with his teacher about this kid, L.

. . . you know, to make sure everyone understands what that tag means. How do you feel about that?"

"Yeah. I think that's a good idea. They need to know," he says, slowly nodding his head.

I look at him for a moment-- a little surprised.

You see, when school started, (as was the case last year) he'd dragged his heels about doing a talk-- wanting instead to wait until he got to know his classmates a little better.

Until they to got to know him better.

Now, Joseph does check his blood sugar in the classroom, and is not at all shy about letting people know when he's feeling low-- so his classmates aren't completely in the dark here.

But still, he's the only one -- in a school of several hundred kids -- who has diabetes.

I'm sure he felt that our talk -- especially given too soon -- might cause his peers to see him first as "that kid with diabetes."

A valid fear, I think.

But since he doesn't see himself that way, it's hard to imagine my son letting anyone else, either.

13 comments:

gina said...

I really don't understand why kids act like that, its probably best you have the talk with the kids in school ...but, do you think it will make it worse with the bully and joseph?

Sandra Miller said...

Gina-

I don't think so. When Joseph and I talked more about this, it really sounded like the kid had no clue about the significance of his dog tag.

And, from what Joseph said -- this was an isolated thing with this boy. That's why he was so shocked by it.

Regardless, he and I both feel like these kids need to have a better understanding of why he wears that tag.

Anonymous said...

Sandra,
Yes, go in and talk to the kids. When our son was dx'd with ADD, he let his friends/classmates know about it and then did an interview w/ the school newspaper (this was in high school). I received calls from parents wanting to know more. He received the support he needed from the other kids. It was truly nifty. Other kids then talked about issues they were dealing with and their open dialog was very inspiring.
Colleen

nicolep said...

Oh Man, Sandra, this makes me so mad. But I know that it's in part just a kid who really didn't understand the significance - still, it makes me want to give him a little of his own medicine.

I hope the talk goes well and please tell Joseph that I'm thinking of him. :)

Chris said...

This is something my wife and myself fear the most. It is bad enought there is bullying out there but when you add this dynamic to the mix it makes it a little more volatile on the way you think and act on this.
I have no advice. I just know your decision will be the right one.
Good luck. Please let us know how it turns out.
Chris

Elizabeth said...

Sandra
I know how Joseph feels. When I started my job months ago, I was hesitant to tell people about my diabetes. I wanted them to know me before I was labled "The girl with diabetes".

I think that talking to the kids at school would be a good idea. I bet anything that the kids will be extremely supportive.

Laura said...

ugh Bullies suck and I know how Joseph feels. Hope all goes well

Vivian said...

Sandra,
We were so there last year. Bullies picking on Daniel because of his D. It all came down to ignorance and fear. Once they understood everything settled down.
Good Luck.
Viv

Carey said...

Sandra,

That story makes me so angry! I hope the kid's parents can express to him just how awful that was. I also hope L steps in dog poo on his way home from school today. Your Joseph seems like a really good egg.

Carey

Jamie said...

Can I say that I want to smack "L" as well?

I hope the talk helps. Maybe "L" will feel bad about doing what he did and apologize? (what are the chances)

MileMasterSarah said...

Sandra,
I’m dealing with a bully issue right now with my son, and let me tell you, I know there isn’t much that gets me as hot/hurt/ticked/upset as having another child do something to my son that is meant to make him feel as though he is not worth as much as he is (you know, like he isn’t as priceless and wonderful as he really is?). Good luck dealing with the school and on that diabetes “talk” with his classmates.

Sandra Miller said...

Colleen-

Thanks. I think you're right. When we gave our talk last year, the kids responded so positively to it...

Nicole-

As always, thanks. I'll let Joseph know.

Chris-

The diabetes does indeed color the way you feel and respond to this sort of thing-- if someone messes with our kids, the stakes just seem so much higher.

Elizabeth-

I can't blame him -- or you - for wanting to avoid the label.

Laura & Vivian-

It always makes me sad to hear of bullying-- let alone the kind involving a kid with diabetes.

I'd read an article about a year ago describing how kids with diabetes are at a much higher risk of being bullied.

It just makes me sick to think of it.

Carey-

A really good egg, indeed.

Thanks. :-)

Jamie-

You certainly can.

And Sarah-

Thanks.

I'm so sorry to hear that your son is dealing with this issue, too. Kids can be so cruel.

Hope things work out on your end as well...

Kerri. said...

Kids can be such a bunch of jerks. I'm sorry Joseph experienced that.

When I was in 5th grade, I had a girl start a club called the "We Hate Diabetics" club. Regardless of the fact that she was the only member, I was still very hurt. It feels crummy to be picked on. But if it wasn't me and diabetes then it was the kid who had red hair. Or the kid who was taller than everyone else. Or the smartest kid. Or whoever. The chaos of childhood doesn't leave anyone unscathed.

Give Joseph a hug for us all.

And, as a side note, I think a discussion with his classmates is a good idea, if Joseph is okay with it. They need to be informed, that's for sure, but Joseph needs to be comfortable with having all of this discussed in class. It's a very narrow balance beam on this one: Walking between educating and embarrassing. But Joseph sounds like he's ready to have this disussion and to educate.

Which doesn't surprise me in the least, because he's a hell of a kid. :)