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My 4-Year-Old's Drawing Let Me Know Exactly How She Feels About Her Diabetes

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While the kids eat dinner I sort through the pile of papers they bring home from preschool each day. Sheet after sheet of drawings, letters, numbers… indicators of their expanding knowledge and growing imaginations.

An intricately drawn image of Batman taking a nap while Daniel Tiger builds a snowman. And that large green square? That’s their recycle bin, duh.

A rainbow… minus brown because, well, “that’s an icky color.”

And a shiny red pancreas… no question to whom it belongs, the letters “I-S-A” staring up at me from the paper.


“Hey, Isa, did you draw this pancreas?”

“What pancreas?”

“This red one… with your name on it.”

“That’s not a pancreas… that’s a heart, Mom.” (Insert frowny 4-year-old face)

I stared at the drawing that just a minute before I was sure was an exact replica of the I Heart Guts pancreas pillow we’d given Isabella a year ago.

I stared at the drawing that I assumed was my daughter’s way of illustrating a dream she has. Just as Mia dreams of sunny days after the rain and Max of saving the earth one less landfill and bad guy at a time, Isa dreams of a pancreas that would just do its darn job already.

I stared at the drawing and realized that my interpretation of what Isabella had drawn wasn’t necessarily her dream — but mine. My interpretation was what I assume she spends her time thinking about: life without this disease. Life without needles and finger pricks. Life without carb counting and unpredictable highs and dangerous lows. These are the things I dream about.

But that isn’t what she dreams about. This heart, red and emblazoned with I-S-A, this is the organ that matters most to my daughter right now. A symbol of love and, most important, life.

While I might secretly wish Isabella understood how different her life would be without Type 1 diabetes, it’s days like this that I’m reminded she’s not defined by this disease. I’m reminded she’s allowed to have dreams filled with Sophia the First and cupcakes, without a test strip in sight. Her dreams don’t have to mirror mine. Life for her can and should be about more than her disease. Much more.

And while a teeny piece of me was excited that she’d drawn a pretty great pancreas, another part of me was happy to hear that diabetes isn’t the first thing that pops into her mind each day. It’s probably not even the fifteenth thing.

So I say to my little one: You just keep dreaming of giant red hearts because that right there? That is the organ that truly matters most.

Originally published: February 12, 2015
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