Instilling pride in oneself at the age of 3 is easy (hello threenager), but pride in a disability (yes, it’s OK to say disability!) can render a parent hopeless.
How does one help their child embrace what is different when different means they struggle to keep up? That they can’t reach lots of things other kids can? That they fall. All the time. How? First, I beg of you to remember that all the things that make us cringe, all of those things that seem negative, are learning experiences. For you and your child.
1. For us, we first have to acknowledge the parts of ourselves that understand the differences in our children, and know that our children do not yet know the difference. Knowing you are not the same and knowing what is different are two different things. Give encouragement during those hard moments. When Addie cannot keep up, we encourage her to wait until the kids pass again, make up her own game, cheer her friends on. Get creative! Dwarfism gives an amazing opportunity to be more creative and better at problem solving that average height children!
2. To get by in life, we all need to be fierce sometimes. Try to focus on that. I love the phrase though she be but little, she is fierce, but before she is small, she is sturdy- inside and out. Ferocity will always mean more than size. When we repeat phrases like Little person, big heart or small body, big goals, we are perpetuating the smallness- “Be proud of your fierceness,” we tell Addie. Giving her natural personality a boost, the focus is on her. She is not dwarfism, it’s just a part of her! I have a tattoo on my back that says, “She is fierce. 4/17/12” And that she is.
3. Make everyday a day to educate. For you and for your child. For your neighborhood. For your school. The best education is showing how your child is like every other child. With a cool 3 inch scar, a few more bruises than the other kids and some awesome step stools and accommodations… your child is like other kids! Even if your child wears a mask to sleep, is in a wheelchair, needs a brace, a trach… Embrace, love, share your journey.
To refer to Welcome to Holland, this is Italy. I promise, it rains all over Europe on some days. Don’t let the rain drown out your own parade of pride! Being different is beautiful: