There I was sitting at Arden's little desk for back to school night wondering if I could be home in time to eat dinner while it was still warm.
The teacher spoke about class culture, math and the bell schedule... pretty standard stuff. While nervous parents asked questions I looked through Arden's desk and wrote her a note about my excitement for her upcoming school year.
It felt like the evening was drawing to a close when Arden's teacher said, "The children wrote a poem from writing prompts, I'll pass them around so you can read them".
When I grasped Arden's in my hand I immediately recognized the format from a few years prior when my son Cole was in fifth grade. I smiled because he filled in the first line almost identically to Arden.
The first prompt is, "I am"
Cole wrote athletic and smart. Arden said, athletic and funny.
My eyes moved to the second line with proud anticipation.
I don't remember what Cole wondered about in the second line of his poem, but I can tell you that Arden's query about life was, most certainly, not the same.
I wonder why diabetes picked me as it's target, Arden asked.
A fist sized lump formed in my throat as I picked a spot on the wall to stare at while I collected myself. I won't lie, I had to bear down hard to stop from crying. I quickly slapped a fake smile on my face and kept reading, scared of what other diabetes related thoughts Arden harbors – but there were none.
When I was finished the poem I snuck a peak at some of the other kid's work. One girl wondered about zebra strips, another why recess was so short - whimsical thoughts from the minds of ten year olds. There was a small second when I could have indulged the pity that I was feeling and I almost did.
Then I thought, "Is it really that bad if Arden wonders why she got diabetes when so many others didn't? The simple answer was no. I found myself feeling proud that she wonders about her life and reminded myself that her writing didn't focus only on diabetes, in fact the poem was nearly thirty lines in length and this was the only mention. Arden saw herself as funny, athletic and confident about her future. She watches nature with curiosity and though Arden prefers quiet when she works, she doesn't judge others who don't. She didn't say she was sad, burdened and everything else about how she sees herself was intensely positive. There was absolutely no reason why I should allow myself to feel like her curiosity about diabetes was anything but that, curiosity. There are so many joyous aspects to who Arden is, she was celebrating them and she deserved for me to do the same.
I choose to be happy about all that Arden understands about her life and proud that she can reflect on her type I diabetes without wallowing. If she can do it, then I can too.
Arden won't know this for a long time but when she wrote that poem, she unwittingly added to my diabetes community with support that buoyed me. And so today I share her words with you in hopes that they will do the same.
The lesson that I took from my little girl's poem is a simple but profound truth.
Diabetes sucks but it isn't who we are. I decide when, where and how it makes me feel.
My name is Scott. I am a writer, a father, a husband and though sometimes I wonder why diabetes choose my daughter, I wonder a little less today because of her clarity and wisdom.