…and this is the comment that set the tone for the weekend.
It’s been a long time since I came to the drawing board to map it all out. As Addie has gotten older, it’s become less of my place to create a path for her and more to be the one to pave the roads she has taken. She is a fantastic 6th grader, a budding scientist who loves making connections between concepts in math, gets lost in the fantasy world of dragons, is learning new songs on her violin, and still loving dance. So I will, at least for tonight, come back to it.
Where to start is the issue.
Many moons ago, Addie had a medical emergency that landed us in an ambulance. When COVID hit, I wasn’t going to take chances with travel and large groups, and all this is to say that we haven’t been to Little People of America (LPA) events in some time. So much time, that after going this weekend to our district regional, I felt a deep, painful guilt. Connections I should have fostered, I did not. As a parent, I failed.
However, when my wife, Kim, and I picked up Addie at camp specifically for children with skeletal dysplasia (and their siblings) at the end of Summer 2022, we knew she had to go back. Her confidence, her glow, her self-awareness, and happiness were palpable. There was a different child coming home than we had left at camp just the weekend prior. The same happened at pick up this past summer, where her sister had also joined her. Addie taking a real “older sister” role, showing Millie where everything was, how the days worked, introducing her to friends, and, in just this one place on Earth, Addie didn’t stand our as different.
I started to talk to my wife about regional and national events, as we drove back home from camp, both remarking on the difference in Addie. The wheels turning in her head…
This weekend, as we walked into the hotel, faces I had dearly missed surrounded me. These people who had lifted me up when Addie had some of the hardest surgeries, difficulties in accessing care, and cheered with me as she learned to walk, fell in love with dance, and flourished in reading. I missed this peer group as much as Addie had. But, as an adult, I found it easier to squeeze back in and less hurtful when I didn’t feel welcome. Honestly, I am not going to be liked by all, and I have come to recognize that. Addie? She is young. She is friendly, but incredibly shy, and I robbed her of years of connecting with these peers. Fitting in is difficult in any peer group.
Grateful for her cellphone, Addie and her sister wandered with some kids for a bit, took all of my quarters for the arcade, and then texted me that they were gonna hang in the kids room with the younger kids. Independent, boundaries, comfort… I guess I can’t worry too much. Knowing that she tried to make some connections, but ultimately felt comfortable in a quiet place, is the start she needed. It was during this time, however, that Kim and I were at the Parents’ Meeting.
As we went around and introduced ourselves, Kim commented that she was their step-mom, but then, as she typically does, she just calls herself “mom.” The girls, of their own accord, also call her the same. “Mama K,” “Mommy Kim,” and Kimche” can be heard all throughout the house every day, and this warms my heart. Addie, especially, has taken to Kim, and they have an unbreakable bond and trust that I am, admittedly, sometimes jealous of, but more-so incredibly grateful for. As Kim talked she highlighted that we were there because of the importance to Addie, but also because she wants to be the “best mom” she could be.
And people in the room got it.
A lot has happened in Addie’s 11 years, and for many other families, they have had similar situations. Life does not happen in a vacuum, it is messy and hard and wonderful and surprising. My life is not just Addie and dwarfism. Millie, her baby sister, is in her first performance on stage in two-weeks. My oldest, 20 year old Army Engineer, is often in and out and getting to her football games, or making sure she’s keeping up with college classes can consume my days. I had major surgery. I am getting my master’s degree. Life happens so fast, so slow, and so inter-connectedly that we have to just keep moving to avoid slipping away unnoticed.
So in this room, when other parents connect with me, it’s as a mother having a child with dwarfism. I am here because I want to be the best mom I can be and I know how crucial this peer group is for her… and me. But when parents connect with Kim it is something else, too. It is also as someone who wants all the same things as myself for Addie, but as a parent that isn’t biological. Parents connect with her in a way that speaks volumes above my parenting. She is someone taking a step into a new environment to learn and support and grow and change. This is a choice she is making, loving our children as much as she does. This isn’t something she ever took a second guess about- this is a choice she doesn’t consider a choice, but a privilege.
As I blindly love Kim for everything she is, I cannot negate the concerns and the differences that come with dating someone with children, and navigating co-parenting with their father. This is an important factor to point-out: she makes the choice to love me everyday, and I am the girls. We are a package and we are loved as such, without hesitation. The choice of this weekend gave Kim the opportunity to learn more- and she rushed home from work to ensure we would be there.
I don’t know how much I will come back and share Addie’s life, but I will share this information, often an overlooked outlier of fact: Show up for your children how they need.
Addie has missed a few events. That is a fact I cannot change. Many connections will be made stronger, some will be fond memories of the past, and, hopefully, the future holds so much more for our family. We are back… just trying to be the best moms we can be. Thank you for coming, thank you for staying. We’ll see you again, soon.