|It’s ok to be different
I always wondered why parents to special kids hide their kids. I now understand that when a parent looks at his/her child, all they see is pure perfection, no matter what. As a parent, my baby will always be the smartest, cutest and most talented in the room. I have no doubt in my mind that other parents feel the same. The problem comes when other women, especially an older breed I’ll call perfection bullies, descend on you like a hurricane.
Being different is ok. We are all special in one way or another. This memo, however, did not get to the perfection bullies. When your child is a little different, they’ll make it their business to tell you what you probably did wrong to end up where you are, and come up with so many solutions to your problem your head will spin. Sometimes the problem they are trying to solve is as vain as a little delay in speech development while other times it is more serious like blindness. Whatever the case, you will be disrespected and violated as a parent by complete strangers in the hospital, public vehicles, and even church. Wherever you run to, perfection bullies will find you.
Parents and especially mothers are very patient. It takes some special kind or compassion and even greater patience to raise a child who has special needs. You can therefore rest assured that the stares they get and ridiculous remarks are not enough to drive such moms to the edge. The bullying however is a little too much for even the strongest of them. This is made worse by the fact that the people who do the bullying are other moms who should know better.
My daughter was lucky enough to inherit her father’s good looks and his beautiful hair. She looks nothing like me. Unfortunately, she also inherited his childhood slightly bowed legs. His condition was never treated and it corrected itself as he grew older.
When my baby started walking, I noticed that her legs were a little bowed; the left one a little more than the other. I don’t remember well whether I noticed it myself or someone pointed it out to me. I’d put my money on someone else, since like I said before, my little girl is perfect! Always has been, and always will be. Having known her dad’s history, I was not worried one bit. I knew that it would pass.
That was until the accusations started flying. Those who know me will tell you that I am very confident and care very little what others think. But whenever I walked with my little baby, older women would stop me and tell me that I carried her on my back too soon, or that I was spoiling my baby’s legs with diapers or that I used a walker to train her how to walk.
They never gave me a chance to explain that no, her case is genetic. Not once.
I started having doubts and when I did a little research, I learnt that it is very normal and that the bow corrects itself as the baby grows. I knew this, yes, but the faceless women who had no business being up in my business did not know this. And there was no stopping them. I finally gave in and took her to the orthopaedic. The doctor said that she was ok. ‘You can take an X-ray to be used as a baseline later, but there’s little that we can do at this time.’
I was prepared to do whatever it took. The X-ray showed that she had 11 degrees bend on the right leg and a 15 degrees one on the left one. According to the doctor, both were acceptable. I was to bring her back after 6 months.
Six months and dozens of suggestions (from my helpful ‘friends’) later, she was big enough to be given braces that I had to use for 3 months. Long story short, her legs are now way much better, but I’ll still meet one crazy person who’ll tell me that I do not put her in the sun enough.
I went from being hurt to shaking my head in disbelief at how complete strangers can feel the right to give me advice that I’ve not asked for. Ignoring them completely is the politest thing I can do when all I want is shout profanities at them. First, I do not know you. Second, if you asked politely, I would explain to you and it would save you the energy you use telling me absurd things that I have been told like a hundred times.
My heart goes out to moms whose kids have more serious complications. I can only imagine what they go through every single day. It is hard enough having to do everything for their special children; they do not need the stares, the advice and the silly questions. Whatever suggestion you’ve got, don’t you think that they’ve tried it already? Instead of playing doctor, why don’t you ask the mother how she is doing? If she’s comfortable talking about it, she’ll tell you the whole story. The most important point everyone should remember is, if you are not asked for your advice, don’t give it. Period!
The fact that my girl is now two and a half means that she understands what we’re talking about. Instead of being worried of other kids (and we all know how insensitive kids are), I am worried about women my mom’s age. Those that blame the diapers, carrying her, the walker and lack of vitamin D in her presence. How dare you plant insecurities in my beautiful toddler? How dare you put the blame on me in her presence for something I had no control over?
So what do I do when someone takes the liberty to give me unwarranted advice? I casually turn to my daughter and undo the damage they’ve just caused right before their very faces by telling my beautiful angel, ‘Sweetheart, you are perfect.’ Because I believe she is.
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