Monday, February 9, 2009


I remember when we moved back to Texas after spending about 6 years in Europe, moving with the Air Force. Our most recent post was in Kleine Brogel, Belgium. It was 1989 and apparently, the only memorable thing about me was that I'd recently lived in Belgium. So, my nickname at school (for a while at least) was Belgium Waffle (they didn't even say it right, it should have been Belgian Waffle). It took a while to make friends because I was not only the new kid, but I was different. In the DoDD schools, everyone moved around a lot and being the "new" kid in a class wasn't different, it was normal. Being back in the States was quite a paradigm shift for me.

Today, when I picked up Ethan and Mary Hannah from school, MH was glum. Usually, she is running around the front area, playing tag or hide and seek or looking for interesting rocks or something with other kids who wait for rides. Today, she was standing alone and looking pretty obviously miserable.

Me: What's wrong, baby?
MH: Nothing.
Me: Well, when you have a frown like that, it usually means that you're sad about something.
MH: I made a mistake today.
Me: A mistake?
MH: Yeah.
Me: What mistake, honey?
MH: I'm such a weirdo. I was picked to hand out the construction paper and I picked up the markers instead.
Me: Did you go back and get the paper and hand it out?
MH: Yeah, but I felt like a weirdo.
Me: Making a small mistake makes you feel like a weirdo?
MH: Yes, everyone was looking at me all weird.
Me: Did someone call you names because of your mistake?
MH: No.
Me: Help me understand, sweetie. Why did that make you feel like a weirdo?
MH: I don't know. I just felt weird.

Now, all along in this conversation, I knew that something was not as it seemed. MH's ego strength is better than letting a little mistake like that get her down.

Me: Mary Hannah, I'm wondering if there is something else that is making you feel like a weirdo in front of your friends? Maybe something besides handing out paper and markers.
MH: (in a small voice) my diabetes.
Me: It makes you different than everyone else?
MH: Yeah. No one else in my class has diabetes.
Ethan: (trying to be helpful) No one in my class has diabetes. I'm not a weirdo (said in an annoying voice only a younger brother can muster).
MH: (amending) Okay, so my brother has it.
Me: Hush, Ethan. MH, you feel weird because you have diabetes? Do your friends keep asking you questions about it?
MH: Some.
Me: That sets you apart from everyone in a way, doesn't it?
MH: Yeah.
Me: Well, I'm not going to tell you that you won't feel a little weird. That is part of the process, but you won't always feel weird about it. You'll get to a point where it is just normal, everyday stuff for you. So, yeah, you'll feel a bit like you are different from everyone else in this way, but you shouldn't ever feel badly about it. You didn't choose this. If you woke up one morning and decided to wear green stretch pants, a polka-dot shirt and dye your hair orange and spike it and call yourself Ms. Stupendous.... then I think it would be okay to call yourself weird.
MH: (giggles)
Me: But you didn't choose this, it just kind of happened. So, it will make things different for a while, but you shouldn't feel badly about it, k? Feeling a little weird for a while is normal. Feeling bad about it won't help anything.
MH: Okay.
Me: Okay. Give me hugs, baby doll.
MH: (hugging me) Can I have a fudge round for snack?
Me: *sigh*

So... I was sitting here thinking about my baby girl and all the emotional turmoil she's going through and I remembered how I felt different, too. However, our situations are light years apart. I was moving into a new community and had to make a place for myself. Mary Hannah is among established friends and her status has now changed. I had to find a niche and adapt myself to a new location. Mary Hannah has to redefine herself in terms of her disease and reestablish feelings of normalcy with her friends. I don't fault the other kids in her class for any of this at all. In fact, MH was so worried about this whole mess that Amelia and I went with her to class on Friday morning, the day after her first visit to the Pediatric Endocrinologist. We fielded questions about diabetes from the class. They asked some great questions (Can we catch it? Will she ever get better? What will happen to her? Will she die like my grandmother did?) and were great about listening and absorbing the information we gave them. After about 1/2 an hour, we were gathering up our stuff to leave Mrs. Miller's 2nd grade when three of MH's girlfriends jumped up and bear hugged her. That made my day. They are all good kids and I know it is going to be alright. But I'm her daddy. And right now, I feel a little bit like a weirdo, because I can't help my baby.


1 comment:

Christopher Heard said...

Ah, Jeff, you have plenty of other reasons to feel like a weirdo. ;-p