Earlier this week, L received her 3rd round of Botox Treatments on her right side, and so she has been a little weaker due to the recent treatment. I typically put her in her leg/ankle brace so she’ll have a little more support while we are out and about. This doesn’t stop my little L though! She continues dancing, and running to the best of her ability despite soreness or any other inhibitions from her minor disability. I’m used to kids (or even adults) asking me questions regarding why L has to wear a brace, and I’m used to the occasional stares that she gets. Most kids will ask questions like “Why does she have to wear that?” or “What happened to her leg/arm?” I’m not offended by these questions – I’m glad that those kids ask questions instead of pointing and staring. For kids, I normally just say that L’s right side doesn’t work quite as well as the left, so she needs a little extra help – something basic they can understand. Adults I can briefly explain what and why. Most people are shocked to hear that kids can have strokes, too!
In my 2 years as a mom, I’ve never really had that feeling where you want to defend your child because they may be different, or feel sad when I see others wonder what L’s brace(s) are for, but I recently, had my first (of many, I’m sure) experience where I felt my heart sink while observing such an incident.
On Friday night, we took L out to a local restaurant for her birthday (age 2)! We were seated in the waiting area, almost ready to follow our hostess to our table, and awaiting my husband to meet us there after work. L, of course, was dancing to the overhead music – spinning, jumping, twirling, running. She was having so much fun going to her birthday dinner in her “pitty dess” (pretty dress) and “geen boon” (green balloon) and being the “buffday pincess” (birthday princess). It was so much fun watching her, despite her rough week, and I had such a proud-mom feeling while I sat on that bench! There were a few others by us waiting to be seated, mostly families, a few couples. One family, who had kids in their early teens and a little girl probably around the age of 7 or 8, was seated next to us on the bench. I could see the little girl watching L, wondering about “what was wrong with her” and I waited to hear the questions that would surely follow; however, I was sad to hear the little girl make fun of sweet L to her mom.
“What is wrong with that girl’s leg?”
“Look at how she’s running – like this (she demonstrates L’s little hop-run)”
“She should be running like this (she demonstrates the ‘correct’ way to run)”
My heart sank. The little girl was making fun of my daughter! I expected her mom to say something like ‘I bet she just needs a little help walking’ or ‘I bet you could ask her mom’, but her mom just shook her head and said,
“I have no idea, that’s kind of funny, huh?”
My heart double-sank! Her mom joined in. This was my first experience witnessing my daughter get made fun of, and it was so sad to me.
So, what can we as parents do in situations like this?
If your child is the one making fun. Explain that everyone is different and differences do not mean the person is bad or weird. Encourage them to ask questions instead of staring or making fun. Take the initiative to ask or be friendly if your child won’t. Don’t participate in the making-fun-of scene.
If your child is the one being made fun of. Have your responses/answers ready – tailor them to fit the age of the individual that comments. Prepare your child by explaining that because they have something special about them (a disability) people might not understand; prepare them with their own answers/responses. Encourage your child to make friends, try new things, etc. Don’t let your child retaliate with a snide remark. It’s okay for your child to have his or her feelings hurt, don’t suppress those feelings, instead, mold those feelings into something proactive.
Below are some lyrics to some great primary-aged songs that you can share with your child.
“Every star is different, and so is every child.
Some are bright and happy, and some are meek and mild.
Everyone is needed for just what they can do;
for you’re the only person who ever can be you.”
“If you don’t walk as most people do, some people walk away from you,
but I won’t, I won’t!
If you don’t talk as most people do, some people talk and laugh at you,
but I won’t, I won’t!
I’ll walk with you, I’ll talk with you!
That’s how I’ll show my love for you!”