Friday, November 30, 2007

Love Does Not Conquer All

Riley stood in the living room. I had just dried him off from his bath. I was holding his pump tubing up to the light to check for bubbles as I do every night when I put on his pajamas.

My mind was on bubbles and priming. That's when he hit me with one of those questions from out of the blue.

"Mama, how did I get diabetes?"

"What do you mean?"

"You know, how did I get it?"

I explained it to him as I put his pump in his pocket and tucked the tubing into his waistband.

"Well, you got a virus and that virus killed the cells in your pancreas that make insulin. That is why you have to take insulin. It doesn't happen to everyone who gets a virus, just some people."

I looked at my son. His head was hung down and his lips where poked out.

"Why do you ask? Does having diabetes ever make you sad?"

"No." He looked up at me with his big brown eyes and said, "I just wish I could be normal like everyone else."

"What do you mean? You are normal."

"No I'm not. I have to take insulin and wear a pump and that's not normal."

I bit my lips as the tears stung my eyes and threatened to spill out. I took a few deep breaths and gathered him up into my arms.

He sat on my lap with with his pajama bottoms on. He lay his damp head on my shoulder.

"I'm not normal. I'm not normal."

"Yes you are."

"No, I'm not. I'm not normal."

"Riley you are normal. Just because you take medicine doesn't mean you're not normal."

"Is there anything the other kids in your class get to do that you don't?"


"Then why are you not normal?"

"I don't know, I'm just not."

"Does anyone ever make fun of you because you have diabetes?"

I held my breath afraid of what the answer might be.


"You know why? Because they know you're just like them."

He looked deep in thought.

"Mama, do I have to go to bed right now? Can I lay in your lap for a little bit?"

"Yes, for a few minutes."

He got his Winnie the Pooh blanket that he used to have in his crib when he was a little baby. He wrapped up and lay his head in my lap.

I let him lie there for a while while I stoked his hair. My heart ached with love for him and I once again held back the tears that where stinging my eyes.

After a while I tucked him into bed. After his prayers he reached out and gave me a big bear hug, a little bit stronger than most nights, then he gave me a big kiss and another tight squeeze.

"I love you, Mom."

"I love you too baby bear."

I really wish love did conquer all.


Shannon said...

All of these heavy issues they have to work out before their time. It's tough.

I'll bet he feels better about himself after his talk with you.

Jonah said...

Tell him you understand that it's hard to be different, validate his feelings that he is different, and maybe point out the ways in which other people are different too.

Does he know any other diabetics?

Vivian said...

I agree with Jonah, tell him he is normal, he is just different. Every single person is different. Daniel just explained this to me this morning while turning his socks wrong side out because "they feel better that way". lol
Please tell Mr. Riley that it is a good thing to be different. That is what makes him special and, well, him. We all love who he is and who he will become.

Penny Ratzlaff said...


Thank you for your suggestions. I was so ready last night to prove to him that he is normal that I didn't think to validate his feelings of being different.

I did point out to him how some other people are different. Yes, he knows two other boys who have diabetes. Both of them are in my older son's class. (They are 16.) One of them wears a pump and the other one does not.


Thanks. I did try to tell Riley that everyone is different and nobody is really the same. I even pointed out a boy in his class who can't eat certain things because they make him hyper. I told him that didn't make that boy abnormal.

It's just hard to convey to a 5 year old that being different and being abnormal are not the same thing. And, by "not normal" he might have meant different. But, as a mother when you hear your child say they are not normal you just want to fix it.

Agh. I wasn't cut out for this.

Unknown said...

Delurking to say I've got monster tears rollin here.

My 13 year old dd asked me the other day what she will do with her pump on her wedding day. Heartbreaking.

Vivian said...

Penny, Big Hugs to you. I know it is hard and I understand that feeling of wanting to fix it. You are doing a great job and apparently God thought you were perfectly cut out to do this. =) This very conversation with Riley, while a very tough one, will help shape the compassion and caring that will only make your son that much more of an awesome man.
Please know my heart is with you on this one. I hope he soon realizes how wonderful he really is.

Donna said...

I definitely agree with Vivian. God knew you WERE cut out for this. You did a great job explaining things to Riley & how you kept from bawling at that time is beyond me. You are such a strong person - stronger than you think. I'm sure Riley was reassured by your words & hugs. Sometimes that's all a little boy needs to get him through a difficult time - a hug from mommy. Even though this was a difficult situation, it was also a time to cherish between mother & child. You'll remember these moments when he's grown - as treasured times between the two of you.

Jamie said...

I'm proud of you Penny - you handled that wonderfully.

I've already had my child ask me when her diabetes is going to go away. She asked me a year ago when she was two and couldn't really even fully understand what was going on and even that was very difficult for me.

I dread these questions as they creep up, cause I know they're going to - but reading how Moms like you are handling it gives me the confidence I'll handle the questions just as well as you have :)

Bernard said...


God bless all of you. I just read this and my eyes are stinging with tears as I type.

Unfortunately Riley is different, but not in any sense that matters all that much.

Ask the 'normal' people, they're all different too. Thank God.

And thanks for being such a great Mom for Riley. He's blessed.