When It's "Cool" To Have Asthma

I’m lucky to have had a few jobs where I’ve worked with kids. Kids are great when they find out you have asthma—they’re either just like “Oh,” and go on with their lives, or they say “[so-and-so] has asthma, too,” and then go on with their lives. Then usually later on, they’ll ask you a random question, and again, go on with their lives having learned one of their 47 new things of the day.

However, when kids who also have asthma learn you also have asthma, they react a bit differently. The shyer ones, or the ones who want to appear cool, will often give you a slight smile. Then, though, there are the kids who just have their heart on their sleeves all the time, and will—almost excitedly—announce their asthma to you (which, when you are taking care of them, you already know!), and actually think it’s cool that this grown-up(-ish) person has asthma just like them.

One time at work, we had the fire safety trailer come visit. The coolest part, of course, was that they get the fake smoke going in the fire safety trailer house and the kids have to jump out the window. Except, not the kids with asthma for fear of screwing up our lungs. So, myself and the three kids with asthma in my group, somewhat proudly, dubbed ourselves Team Asthma while coloring at a table prior to the fire department’s visit, and the two third-and-fourth grade girls grabbed my hands as we waited and watched everybody climb down the ladder—including a coworker who kind of envied that I got to escape without the climb ;).

Working with kids, being able to share your asthma world as normal, at least for you, is awesome. They get to see you living your life and having a good time, being active, and knowing that—just like them—there’s an inhaler nearby just in case. I hope that these kids remember that, despite my asthma, I was one of the more likely staff members to play games in the gym or climb around on the play structure with them, or—heaven help me—trail around after kids in those giant indoor playground tunnel things on field trip days. Sometimes, just seeing a kid’s eyes light up a little when they hear “I have asthma, too,” and having a kid with asthma give you a high five or a hug just because of that random little fact that makes us both the same, is really cool. When they learn I have asthma and kind of think out loud like “Well, you still do all that stuff!”, is really cool.

Advocating and educating isn’t always about being overt—I don’t talk about my asthma all the time, and sometimes I avoid talking about it even when the subject comes up—there are days I just don’t want to deal with it. But, especially with kids, especially with kids who have asthma, kids who already understand living with weird lungs—I’m more than happy to level with them, so that they know that they’re not alone on the journey. And, even if they don’t “outgrow” their asthma, like many of their parents probably tell them they will, they know that they can still have an awesome life, even if their lungs make things a bit more interesting than they should.

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