It happened quicker than I could blink. One second Braden was crossing the living room and the next he was sitting in his sister’s infant car seat. It’s often a challenge to see exactly what just happened when he suddenly finds himself on the floor. Before I could even ask, Braden’s wit and charm came through as he said, “Well, now I know what that feels like!” Watching your child’s abilities decline is emotionally draining and upsetting. However, we do our best to keep our chins up and look at what bright side we can see. Braden’s amazing sense of humor and personality help not just himself but us as well. If only others would give him half a chance, they would see just how funny, caring, and entertaining he is!
Children will always come together in groups that support similar interests and complimenting personalities. Every parent wants to foster those important friendships, for their child to find acceptance, and to help them form a positive self-image. Most of us have fond memories of palling around with our friends and finding wild adventures. We remember sitting at the lunch table and swapping snacks, birthday and slumber parties, and telling tales of the night before. All those memories help to shape who we are as adults and how we view friendships and life. What do you do though when your child is on the outside looking in? Aside from waging a full-fledged character campaign and shouting from the rooftops, “Hey! Give my kid a try! He really is awesome!” what is there to do?
With legs that don’t always do as their told, Braden slid between the beverage cooler and the wall at his grandparents’ house. “Oh no!” his Nana said with little fuss. “I didn’t even know you could fit in there,” she remarked. “Nana, sometimes you just fit,” he informed her. In deed, sometimes you just do. Then there are those times where you simply just don’t. In today’s society it’s so easy for us to get caught up in our social networking that even pint-sized humans are making “connections.” What is one to do when their child does nothing to further other children socially? How do we encourage our children, mine included, to reach out to others who are gifts in different packaging? How to we teach them that not everybody has to be a perfect fit to fit perfectly in their social circle? Sometimes it takes one open-minded child to reach out a hand and include the child who is different from society’s “normal.” If only everybody could feel how it feels to be excluded, then perhaps they would understand the emotional scars that it can leave behind.
As adults we need to remember that our children learn from us. They follow our lead. When they see a man in a wheelchair at the mall and ask, “Mommy, what’s wrong with his legs?” Do not shush her and scurry away. Instead embrace that moment as an opportunity to teach him or her that we all face unique challenges and perhaps she could simply go to the source and make herself a new friend. After all, if you are going to stare you might as well say hello. It’s a moment to share with our children that despite the fact that the other child may get around differently than he or she does, doesn’t mean they don’t like dolls, cars, or ice cream. In fact, they may be far more similar than different. The thing is that if they don’t give the child a chance, they will never know. We need to teach our children to be inclusive, accepting, empathetic, and to have enough courage to reach out to those that are different despite how it may appear to their peers. Besides, the may gain more than just a friend. They may learn to laugh in the face of adversity, to be brave when they are scared, to rejoice over success, and to be determined and confident in the face of adversity. There is much to be learned from differently abled or children with unique needs.
So here I sit next to one of the funniest kids I know, and I wonder what life has in store for him. Will he be seen for who he is on the inside or by the trappings on the outside?