Your children are Addison's future.
One of my fears for Addison is for lack of acceptance as she grows older. Will her peers make fun of her? Will she have any friends? Will she be isolated socially? Will her feelings be constantly hurt by thoughtless comments or gawking strangers?
I was talking to a friend recently. She was telling me how one of her friends just had a baby- with only one arm. When her young daughter made a loud comment about how "if she had a baby with only one arm, she wouldn't hold it" in front of the new parents, my friend took this as an opportunity to educate her daughter.
That just because this little baby had only one arm- doesn't make him any less of a person. That just because something appeared to be different didn't mean that he isn't just like us. That just because she wasn't used to seeing a baby with only one arm didn't make the baby any less celebrated or special.
After that conversation her little girl warmed up to this little baby with one arm and by the end of their visit was totally in love with this precious bundle.
I smiled as I heard this story. How wonderful that this mom was teaching her daughter at a very early age about difference and acceptance. If I hadn't had a daughter with Down syndrome, no doubt I would have subconsciously trained my daughter to stare awkwardly and for all purposes look uncomfortable every time she was in the presence of someone different.
I started thinking about Addison's peers who right now are just emerging more as human beings and less as eating, pooping, sleeping lumps. I thought about those peers' parents and wondered how they're going to teach their children.
There are toy rules and food rules and polite rules....every toddler is being taught so many things by their parents. But are they being taught to be accepting? Are they being taught about differences and being "special"? Doesn't it start from early on when they notice a difference and loudly state their opinion "I wouldn't hold a baby with only one arm" The parent has a choice to awkwardly shrug it off and apologize to the new parents for the tactless comment.....OR to use the teachable moment to shape a young mind.
I'm so glad that I am blessed with such wonderful friends who go out of their way to make sure that their children see Addison as an accepted peer- a friend. Friends who continue to train their children about differences in this world and through doing so will make a HUGE impact on Addison's future.
Addison just wants to be treated like any other little girl- wear pretty things- do fun activities- have friends- converse about what's on her mind. She is more like your children than different.
Please make Addison's world more accepting by training your kids about difference instead of glossing over uncomfortable moments. Take your kids somewhere where they'll see someone "different" and have a discussion with them about what this means and how they should treat such a person (hint: as a person). Oftentimes the weirdness we feel around "special" people is because it's new- we don't know what to say or how to respond because we've never met someone like that before. Make it commonplace for your children. Help them see that it's a normal part of life- not something to be avoided at all costs.
Your kids are Addison's future. Please, please, please prepare them for life beyond the normal. Teach them how to react and respond and hopefully your children will make a positive impact on many through their loving acceptance.
It'll also make a difference in your child's life. More well rounded as a person, more accepting socially, a warmer heart, a desire to make a difference in someone's life even if it's just a smile...Learning to accept these differences graciously will enrich your child's life like nothing else.
Your children are Addison's world. She'll make it a better place for them if they'll make it better for her.
Make a difference for the different...one child at a time.