Beautiful, talented and brilliant Courtney Simross recently wrote a piece called LP Babies on her blog Life is Short and So Am I. The first comment she posted was one I’d left. I was moved to tears (I do cry a lot since giving birth… I suppose to make up for the years I didn’t?) knowing that what I’d written had stuck with her. Ten years my junior, Courtney is well spoken and gives advice to parents that not many can. There are groups- one parent to another- but to have a mind that can articulate thought to “paper” as Miss Simross is doing, from child to parent, is almost unheard of. Here are the words of a young woman with achondroplasia speaking to me, to you, to anyone out there wondering how to help (it takes a village) raise our babies into individuals as confident as she. Thank you, Courtney. I look forward to that book you will, for sure, have time to write in the future.
Disclaimer: This post is mainly intended for AP parents of LPs, but with that, I do not intend to discourage anyone else from reading! This post also addresses some things that I struggled with as a child, and I do not intend to make anyone think I suffered or that I regret the experiences I had. The person I am today is the sum of all things, good and bad, that I have been through, but if I can shed some light for parents wishing to make their children’s lives easier, I will do whatever it takes.
About a month ago, I got this crazy idea in my head that I should start a blog. In response to a few funny Facebook statuses, I will often get told by someone that I should write a book. Since ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat, I decided that blogging might be my happy medium- people could still read what I had to say, and I could do it on my own time. I did not have much faith in its success, and I figured that if anything went wrong, I could just delete it and act like nothing happened. What blog? I never had a dumb blog!
Fool-proof plan. After all, only a few people were probably ever going to read it. Maybe my mom. Maybe a couple of the old ladies from my church who pat me on my head every time they see me.
But for the last few weeks, responses have been flooding in. When it rains, it pours, and this time it is a monsoon. Blog comments, Facebook friend requests, and Instagram follower requests have been coming in from everywhere. And by everywhere, I mean ten different countries. Because I just checked my reader stats, and 9,728 people have visited my blog. Nine thousand, seven hundred and twenty-eight people from the US, United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, and Finland. Mind. Blown.
The responses have been amazing and very much appreciated. I never knew that my words could impact that many people. Unfortunately I do not have the time to personally respond to every single person who has contacted me through social media or comments on my blog, so I would like to give a huge shout-out to all of my readers. I thank you beyond measure for taking the time to listen to what I have to say. I will try my best to respond to those of you who have reached out to me.
However, one group of my readers have stood out to me in their responses- average height parents of little people children. Your comments and messages have truly left my speechless. Here are some of my favorites:“YOU are defining a whole new culture. My daughter is just 14 months, but I hope that the path your blazing is one she continues down. Thank you.”
“I came across your blog and have enjoyed it so much. We have a 4 year old daughter with achon. Reading your blog has been a help to maybe understand and be able to help our daughter in the future.”
“I love reading your perspective! As an AH mom to a 21-month old with hypo, I would love to hear your thoughts on how I can help my daughter be as articulate and confident as you as she grows up. Thank you for sharing your experiences!”
“I just found your blog and I LOVE IT!! I have a nearly 3 yr old daughter with diastrophic dysplasia and your blog gives me a bit of a window (maybe) into her future 🙂 Love your attitude and hope to instill a similar one in my little one as she grows up.”
Whoa. This just became real. I have the opportunity to explain the things that I struggled with so that some LP kids will never have to. You better believe I am taking advantage of this. However, I am not promising that this is a one-size-fits-all solution, and I am definitely, DEFINITELY (emphasis on definitely) not telling anyone how to parent their child. Simply, here are things I went through– they might provide insight on how to approach these situations with your own LP child.
1. Try not make your LP child associate with younger children because it is “cute.” Growing up in church, I was always participating in Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Children’s Choir- whatever it was, I felt like I was always singing. La te da, let’s stick 30 screaming children in front of the sanctuary and make them sing, maybe teach them some sign language or dance moves to go along with it. Great. I probably had fun. But to this day I have this one, terrible memory of practicing for the Christmas program and ugly crying, snot bubbles and all. Why? Because someone apparently had the idea of recruiting me to stand up there and sing with the children even after I was old enough to participate some other way. Yes, that is right. Oh, we do not have enough of the little kids to sing? Let’s make Courtney sing with them! She will fit right in and no one will ever know! No. Because who knew? I knew. And that is what matters. The same goes for making your child play on a sports team with younger children because it is “safe.” There are safe ways to play without making your child feel like a baby.
2. On the contrary, try not to make your LP child feel as though the only place he or she fits in is with adults. After having my fair share of experiences being left out or excluded by children my age, I started hanging around older people. And that made me grow up faster than I ever could have imagined. I would talk to teachers, parents, any adults that would listen. I recognized the fact that they accepted me for my differences, and I latched on. I participated in conversations that were literally and metaphorically over my head and I heard things that I probably should not have. People always tell me that I am very mature, and this is the reason why. To this day, hanging around people my age for too long makes me feel a little silly, and part of me wishes I could participate in reckless, stupid things that young adults do without wanting to yell, “Grow the hell up!”
3. Please never shelter your LP child from the harsh realities of living with dwarfism. Yes, sometimes the things that doctors will tell you, parents, can seem quite scary. But I think your child deserves to hear them as well. Your child may need to use a special chair for back support at school. Your child may need corrective leg surgery which consists of breaking four bones. Your child may be laughed at in the middle of Target. He or she deserves to know, because it concerns them. Thankfully my parents did their best to talk through these situations with me, so nothing came as a surprise. Yes, any variation of these situations are difficult to deal with, but ease comes with expectation. If the line of communication had not been open between my doctors, my parents, and myself, I probably would have felt like I could not have asked any questions. And that thought scares me. Living with dwarfism, and the baggage that comes with it, is not always easy. But do you know what is even harder? Living in the dark about it.
4. Teach your child to welcome strangers’ questions. They are going to come, so you might as well be prepared. It breaks my heart whenever I happen upon an LP in public who is rude and cold to others who are curious. While the comments and questions can seem annoying and redundant, remember that your child may be the first and last dwarf that someone may ever encounter.
5. Let your child handle some situations on his or her own. Though I am not a parent yet, I can imagine what it feels like to watch your child be made fun of by ignorant people. And I can imagine how easy it is to fight back and give them a piece of your mind. While yes, you may feel like you are getting the necessary “revenge” or “respect” your child deserves, this is not always what is best. I have countless memories of my mom calling people out in the middle of a store or restaurant for making rude comments, or pushing me behind her so people would not stare at me anymore. Her “mama bear” instinct always embarrassed me. I prefer to handle these situations on my own. Staring does not bother me enough to cause a scene, so I rather just ignore it and get on with my day. But more importantly, I hated the fact that my mom was taking care of those people for me. There are many things I cannot always do by myself, but handling situations like these is definitely one. I suggest giving your child the freedom to choose how he or she responds to those people. You might just find that you have instilled enough confidence in your child that he or she is not bothered by stares and comments.
6. Do not be afraid to let your LP child do things that LP children should not do. Yes, you read that right. Some of my favorite memories growing up are when my mom taught me how to do somersaults and my dad taught me headers when I played soccer. Both are pretty frowned upon with an unstable Achon. neck, but I lived to tell everyone about how much fun I had!
7. Get your child involved in LPA! I can not speak enough praises about that organization, and I promise you that they will provide you with any information and resources you could ever be searching for. I have made some of my best friends through LPA. If you have the means to, I encourage you to take your child to conventions. As an AP, you will never understand the impact it makes to be around people your own size and finally feel like you are normal, even if it is only for a few days. Another added bonus? About 80% of LPs are born to AP parents, so you will meet plenty of people who are in your shoes! You can get started by joining these pages on Facebook, (dwarfism) here and (Achondroplasia) here.If I have left out anything about growing up with dwarfism that you want to know about to in order to help your own child, please do not hesitate to contact me through comments here or Facebook (and if it is Facebook, please send a message along with your friend request so I know who you are!) I may take some time to respond, but I promise I will. In the mean time, hold your beautiful LP babies close. I cannot wait to have my own.