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When I Gave My Daughter a Diabetes Kit for Her Dolls

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As our kids have gotten older, the joy of Christmas has been amplified. The excitement leading up to Christmas morning takes me back to my 5-year-old self hoping Santa saw my wish list consisting of all things Barbie.

Imagine my joy this year when I stumbled upon a website that sells 3D printed insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors for dolls. I just knew my daughter Isabella would love them. In fact, I was pretty sure they’d be some of her favorite Christmas gifts. I promptly filled my online shopping cart with all of the supplies that would soon make her Barbie “just like her!”

On Christmas Eve, I strategically placed the teeny-tiny wrapped gadgets in her stocking… knowing we’d be saving one of the best gifts for last. I wondered if I should have brought one of her Barbies up from the basement since I was certain she’d want to do a “site change” right away. I didn’t want to delay Barbie’s pesky two-hour calibration window for her new glucose monitor any more than necessary!

Once the wrapping paper dust had settled Christmas morning, the old “Oh, look! He filled your stockings, too!” set off a flurry of renewed excitement. One by one the kids dumped their loot onto the floor. As they pushed aside their reindeer Pez dispensers and packs of gum, they began unwrapping their final bursts of holiday joy.

As Isabella ripped the paper off the miniature Dexcom, I knew I had made a mistake. The expression on her face… I’m still not really sure what it was. Disappointment? Curiosity? Confusion? What I did know was that it wasn’t the one I had envisioned when I clicked “place order now.” It wasn’t excitement, and it certainly wasn’t joy. For a brief second, it almost felt like sadness.

I looked at my husband Greg with a face signaling this wasn’t the way Christmas morning was supposed to end. I watched as Isabella looked between her toy medical devices and her sister’s miniature Lite-Brite and her brother’s Storm Trooper keychain. Her “gift” didn’t feel so much like a gift after all. At that moment it was me who was filled with sadness… and a little bit of shame.

I had once again made it “about diabetes.” I had assumed that Isabella wanted her doll to be just like her. But she didn’t. Actually, I don’t know that she’d ever even considered that her doll could have diabetes. She’s never once asked why her dolls don’t have Type 1 diabetes and she’s never said she wished they did.

This week it was announced that the American Girl empire has developed a Type 1 diabetes accessory kit. Had I heard this news just one week ago I would have been first in line to throw down $24 to make sure Isabella’s doll would have one. I would have driven two hours to the closest store and purchased extras for all of Isabella’s T1D BFFs, just knowing they would be a hit!

But not today.

Today I will let Isabella make that decision. Today I will not assume that for her to feel accepted she must be surrounded with dolls “just like her.” Today, instead of making assumptions about what will make Isabella happy, I will ask her.

Thank you, American Girl, for giving our kids the choice to have their dolls be just like them in so many ways. I love that the brand is embracing the many differences of young children today and feel fortunate that, whatever Isabella chooses, her doll can be just like her…

Or not.

Kristina’s daughter Isabella

Image via contributor

Originally published: December 29, 2015
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