January’s theme at Emerson’s preschool is Favorite Things. This week in her classroom the kids are allowed to bring in their favorite teddy bear. For Emerson that would usually mean her stuffed panda bear that she has had her whole life, whose white areas are no longer so white and body is in need of some replacement stuffing. “Bear Bear,” as she has so named it, is never too far from her when she is at home and also is brought along in the car whenever we go places. Bear Bear gets to play Barbies, be taught gymnastics, act as a pillow during sleep, and of course…get held during every pump site change. We thought it was a no-brainer that she would be taking her panda to school as she has done in the past for the rare Stuffed Animal Day. Apparently we didn’t realize that she had bigger things in mind.
We were shocked when on Sunday she said she wanted to take her Diabetes bear, Rufus, in to show her friends. Rufus is her JDRF bear that she received while in the PICU and we were undergoing our education. It has colored patches on the insulin injection sites (which for her are pod sites now) and a medical bracelet, which she wanted to describe to the other kids. It also has a book with it, which is a story about a boy with diabetes. We thought this was a great idea and immediately told her so. She was so excited that she went and got both out of her room and put them on the kitchen counter so we wouldn’t forget them on Monday. On the ride home she couldn’t wait to tell us that her friends really liked her bear and that the teachers had her pass it around so everyone could look at it. They were even kind enough to read the book to the class.
We can’t fully describe how happy we are with the way this all unfolded - from Emerson coming up with the idea on her own and being comfortable talking about her disease, to the teachers voluntarily reading her book without us even mentioning it. This was a great opportunity for Emerson to make her friends more aware of what she is experiencing and more importantly, to gain experience and confidence in talking about T1D and realize that others do not see her any differently from themselves. We have always taken every opportunity to tell her how special she is and how cool her pump is and it was great to see that it may be having an impact.