I had something really surprising happen to me yesterday. It was ironic-at best, and embarrassing at worst.
My daughter Hope had an appointment yesterday at The Shriner's Hospital in Philadelphia. Hope (in case you didn't know) was born with some shortened fingers, and webbed toes-and one of her feet was a club foot. She has had surgery to separate two of her fingers-and also tendon lengthening surgery for her foot. She needed a new brace made to wear at night-so we were there to get fitted for it. She also still needs to get two of her fingers separated so we needed to make an appointment to do that.
Anyhoo--we were in the waiting room-with kids that have varying disabilities. Some less than Hope's--many worse. Since I have been VERY forefront with my kids about respecting that we are all different--and born differently--I have prided myself on the fact that our kids seem to notice a person first--not their disability. It is one of the beautiful benefits of having children that have a difference. It seems to help create tolerance and acceptance in your family.
That is, until yesterday. I actually look forward to going so that Hope can see that she is not alone in her differences--she can develop a sort of kinship with these other kids--or so I thought.
We are sitting, and I am chatting with the mom of a gorgeous 4 year old--who happens to be born missing her arm below the elbow. Hope and this little girl are playing with the new dolls that were just given to them.
Hope looks up--startled and says " what happened to her elbow?"
Her mom politely answers-"she was just born that way".
Fine. Innocent enough--kids are curious-the mom and I have a brief discussion on this.
But then--Hope will...not...let...it.....go!
She says "but what happened to it? Where did it go? (pointing rudely the whole time)How come she was born like that?"
OMG! I am so embarrassed--so I nicely say--" Hope--you know how you were born with fingers and toes that are different? Well--this little girl was born with an arm that is different--and it is beautiful--just like your hands and feet."
And Hope says then (this is the killer..) "my hands and feet are FINE-why are you saying they are different--that girl does not have an ARM--I have both my arms!"
Oh-God help me get through this moment. God does help--because then our name is called-and I say very sheepishly to the mom--"I am sorry--it appears that Hope and I have some more talking to do." She was so kind--and said "we are all learning--even the kids with differences themselves."
And it dawned on me--I have been so concerned with protecting Hope from others and their comments--that it did not occur to me to have the same discussions with her--about other people with differences. I think that we have done SUCH a good job of building her confidence about her hands and feet-that she does not put herself in the "category" of someone who is differently abled.
Hope and I had a nice long conversation on the way home--the same conversation that I have had with my other kids-and I hope that now she gets it. Or at least I am praying that she does. And I had the incredibly humbling experience of having the tables turned--and being the mom mortified by their children's comments--and let me tell you--it's not a nice place to be!
Maybe this can open up some room for discussion for you and your kids--whether they are born with all their bits or not! It is most certainly a conversation that is needed for ALL kids---or so I learned! :-)
Till next time.......