Something happened the other night that caused me to think of a blog post that I wrote two years ago on my blog, www.ardensday.com, about the false perception of bravery. I'd love it if you could click over and read "Bravery" before you continue but, if you can't, I understand.
Bravery is defined as the quality that allows someone to do things that are dangerous or frightening, but I think that's a romantic notion. Bravery is staying alive, it's fighting when things get messy because the alternative is terrible. Bravery is the reaction of the living when faced with peril. No one wants to be brave; we want to be safe, happy and warm. Bravery is fighting when circumstance takes away all of your other options.
People do amazing things every day, things that look brave to onlookers who have yet to face such challenges. The uninitiated will refer to the actor's response as brave, but the people who fight the fight call it staying alive. Being thrust into a situation that requires bravery will take its toll -- it ages you -- seasons your mind and steals your innocence. Given the choice, I'd rather be uninitiated than thought of as brave, at least I would when it comes to my children's health.
Last evening, I found out for sure that Arden would also choose the former. Arden and I were discussing something for school, something that required her to tell a story from a personal experience. She was having trouble deciding on a topic, so I shared with her that I like to write about things that I know a lot about because my experience helps me to tell a truthful and relatable story. I began to suggest diabetes as a topic for her when I was reminded that bravery is just another way to say that you are stuck and have no other choice.
Arden tensed up and then exploded. Tears, anger and sadness poured from her as she bellowed, "I am not diabetes, everyone just sees diabetes."
Then she told me that a girl she didn't know walked up to her at school recently and asked, "Are you the girl with diabetes?" When Arden responded, the girl just walked away, her fact-finding mission completed. Arden may have perspective about diabetes, but she clearly doesn't want it... not yet, at least.
Arden isn't brave, she's stuck. She's not resolute, she's trying her best to live her life. We can apply labels to people and actions, labels that make us feel better and maybe that's OK and needed for most days, but please, take it from me, don't ignore that those words are only shields. Band-Aids that keep us from recognizing and treating the real hurt. The conversations, the ones that need to be had, are based in the truth given to me by my 9-year-old daughter on this day. The truth is, she is tired of pretending to be brave.
The conversation that Arden and I had after she calmed down was one of the most honest and valuable conversations that I have ever had with one of my children. Though I would have in the past, I never once told her that she was brave or that I was proud of her. I told her the truth. We aren't brave because we want to be, we do it because bravery is living and it's the best weapon we have and often the only good choice in a situation that is mostly devoid of freedom. We are brave because diabetes is unescapable, but it is not insurmountable and perhaps we should explore how to conquered it without wearing a mask.
I know we can do it, I just have to figure out how. How do you embrace the honesty of living with type I diabetes without letting it permeate every inch of who you are? Is the answer as easy as acceptance -- it may be -- but how do I help a 9-year-old to make that mental leap? Can I even begin to be a part of this understanding for her, or is time the only real teacher of this lesson?
Check out Scott’s award winning parenting memoir, Life Is Short, Laundry Is Eternal: Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Dad.