True Colors is a song that I love, it reminds me to be yourself no matter what, and see people the same way, for who they are, without judgment or prejudice. I always tell my boys that if they just be themselves, don’t try to be something that you’re not, they will be happier in life, and have true friends.
It takes a while, sometimes a lifetime to get to this place. We can preach it to our kids, how many times have we said: just be yourself, and you’ll be fine, other kids will love you.” I have come to realize that it’s not that easy.
Joey is pretty athletic, he plays football, and basketball. He has an older brother that is athletic as well, as a sophomore Tony was the starting center on his football team that won the State title. So Joey wants to follow in his footsteps, but Joey has something that Tony doesn’t have: Type 1 diabetes. He isn’t planning on letting type 1 get in his way of success on the basketball court or football field. The obstacle that he does have to get over is sharing his disease with his teammates.
I remember when Tony was going into 2nd grade, we switched him from public to private school. He was nervous all summer, being the new kid is intimidating. So that first week, I was there lurking around every corner to make sure my little boy was OK, that kids were “accepting” him. The first couple days were the hardest, he’d come home crying: “I want to go back to my old school where my friends are.” My words to him were “you are going to be fine, everyone will like you when they get to know you, TRUST ME.” The 2nd week of school was a little better, we were excited for the first Cub Scout meeting at his new school, and he and I walked into the gym, where there wasn’t one familiar face to me. I immediately realized how he had felt that first day, and weeks to follow. When we got in the car to leave I cried. I apologized to Tony, I should have let him vent, instead of jumping to the reassuring place.
Joey started on a new basketball team his summer, it’s comprised of kids that will most likely go to the same high school. He only knew one kid going into the program. He wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of playing with all new kids. I knew it was because he would have to face the challenge of letting these new kids know that he has type 1 diabetes, and will have to check his blood sugar often during games. So far at practice, he hadn’t checked his blood sugar. When I would give him the diabetes hand language or eye language to tell him to check, he would always shake his head no, saying he was fine.
I’m torn, I know I have to let him figure this out, he is the one who is going to face this over and over in his lifetime, every time he meets someone new. But, I’m the mom, the one who should have this figured out for him, and should tell him what to do. What immediately comes to mind? I’m right back to “you’ll be fine, the kids won’t care one bit that you’re checking your blood sugar, TRUST ME.” I know that this isn’t the right answer! Maybe they won’t like him because he is different from them. Maybe they will judge him and even make fun of him? Then what? Then I lied, I asked him to trust me and I lied.
After the second game, I gave him the look, the look that can’t be denied! It was time. Check your blood sugar, NOW. He took a breath, I could see it, and stuck his hand inside his sports bag, without anyone noticing. Not really what I wanted, but, in time it will happen. I have to trust him, that he will figure this out. I will let him know that I am right here with him, if he needs to vent, I’ll listen, without giving advice.
As Joey gets older, this weighs heavily on my heart. Because I know that how he handles himself in these situations today, will set the tone for his entire life. If he can get over the anxiety of telling someone: “I have type 1 diabetes,” and find the confidence to be his own person, I know that everyone will see his true colors, which are beautiful, like a rainbow. TRUST ME!