Thursday, December 10, 2009

Life Challenged Me

Sometimes life really challenges what you believe. A good faceful of life can hurt A LOT. But it also makes you think really hard about what you truly believe deep in your heart.

I recently re-iterated how we feel about the genuine curiosity and sometimes embarrassing (for their parents)comments and questions of other children when meeting Jack for the first time. I told here and in my guest post how we explain Apert syndrome to other children.

Recently, we spent a few days surrounded by lots and lots of people we don't know. Those are the times when we get the most curiosity (obviously). We had the full spectrum of reactions.

Some kids did not even seem to register Jack's obvious differences. They just played on alongside and with Jack. Some kids asked a couple of questions and then resumed playing alongside and with Jack.

Then there were just a few kids who would not get anywhere near Jack even after I tried to introduce them.

And, heartbreakingly, there were the kids that (there's just no other way to say this) were mean and hateful. The mean kids called Jack a monster and told other kids not to play with him and to run from him.

I'm not gonna lie. It hurt. It hurt real bad. I did not react well. I withdrew inward. I could not react for fear of the pain inside me jumping out and injuring those little people. And it was killing me that the mean kids were influencing the other kids. I had already tried to introduce Jack to the mean kids but they just were not going to be friendly.

It was just a shock to my system and I did not have a plan to guide me. Though I wish I could believe this would not happen again, the truth is that all kids get picked on for something sometime. Next time, I will remind the child that he is being mean (if you call someone a monster, you know you are being mean) and ask him to stop and again try to introduce Jack. If that does not work, I will ask him to take me to his parent to discuss his behavior.

I wanted to believe that Jack did not hear them but I'm sure that he did. He asked to leave although he'd been having fun and he started clinging to me. We have had a brief talk with him about how some people are mean but that is a reflection on that person and what they are going through, not a reflection of Jack.

I cried a lot and thought a lot and prayed a lot and sought out the comfort of people who genuinely and unabashedly love Jack. Being surrounded by people who love him was all Jack needed. He popped out of the shell he was about to crawl into and enjoyed the loving attention.

But what makes the difference? Why do some kids play with Jack and why are some kids mean? Can I really continue to believe in the inherent goodness of children or do I need to start being suspect of every second glance Jack gets?

After a whole lot of prayer, thinking, and discussing with my other half, I think it's the parents. If the children's parents are not comfortable with Jack and are too busy processing their own thoughts about Jack then they cannot help their children to feel comfortable. They will not encourage their children to play with him if they cannot get past his differences and see him as a child just like their child(ren).

Some people live their entire lives surrounded by people that look and act just like them. When they encounter people who are a different color or speak a different language or have a different culture or use adaptive equipment (wheelchairs, walkers, ventilators, etc.) or have a craniofacial disorder they absolutely don't know how to react. Often, lack of knowledge results in fear. It is sad but true.

So what can I do? How can I show these people that different is neither bad nor scary?

Well, one thing we can continue to do that we do already is to get out there into the world. I truly believe that it does help for people to see Jack being the adorable little kid he is.

I started this blog as a way to keep friends and family easily updated without overloading their email servers. Fortunately, other people have found our life interesting and we've spread a bit of awareness that way.

Fellow bloggers like Jamie at Alabama Bloggers, 5 Minutes for Parenting, 5 Minutes for Mom, and Jennifer have highlighted this blog and helped me to spread awareness. And my bloggy friend Melissa has offered me a guest post on her blog as well. [Promise to get that done soon!] Thank you all so much for being interested in us and for helping us to show others that, although our life is a little different, we are a family living out our lives like so many other families living out their lives.

We will continue to get out in the world and I will continue to blog but I'm also going to have to step out of my comfort zone. I find it so easy to talk to little kids and to write about how I think and feel but in the live presence of other adults I can be quite shy (friends and family please do not overload the comments with proof that I am not shy--I know all of you! *smiles*). I can connect with most kids and usually use that as my opening to connect with the parents. Obviously, that's not always a winning formula. So [deep breath], while we are out there in the big wide world I'll start stepping up and introducing myself and Jack a little more often.

Don't forget to check out the latest Life is Therapy post.


Crystal said...

Stopping by from SITS - thank you for sharing your life with the blog-o-sphere. :) I think you are definitely right about the parent thing - kids that were bullies grow up into parents that are bullies, and in turn raise offspring bullies...I think it's an insecurity thing. It breaks my heart to hear what some of the children were saying--I'm so glad you handled it the way you did, I can't say that I wouldn't have spewed off some not very nice things and then prayed for forgiveness later. I know it doesn't help to be mean in return, but gosh it just hurts when your child hurts.

The Blonde Duck said...

Popped in from SITS! What an inspiration you are!

Melissa aka Equidae said...

it truly is all about the parents! and I encourage you to step out of the comfort zone and carry on with you mission :) And that part touched a cord to coz I am more happy to talk to people from the net not knowing them than meeting people face to face and what's more I was asked to do a blog post I accepted but I think I am blundering up as I feel terrified of writing something stupid...sigh... Oh and no rush for the post but was thinking of putting your post as a permanent article on the site mamascircle...what do you think?

Nowheymama said...

I am so proud of you and all you do, and I find your positive outlook to be such an inspiration. Jack will (has!) inherited your outlook, and I just know you two are going to continue positively influencing people.

j said...

The reason awareness is a good thing is so people will understand and not react in a way that is painful to Jack or his family.

To move past the initial
"Oh!" upon meeting someone who is different from ourselves, we have to DESIRE to know more, we have to learn, we have to open our heart and our mind. Some people are just too consumed or have their hands full with their own life and they aren't willing/able to do those things. Those people are the ones who aren't having conversations with their children about how to treat others.

We have talked... and talked and talked and talked... to our children about human kindness and making a difference in the life of another person. You never know when YOU will be the one person who can make another person's day. And just like the child who treated Jack poorly, you can be the one person to ruin someone's day too. So much in life is about making the right choice.

I fully understand that pain you feel for Jack because you are right, EVERYONE gets treated poorly at some time or another. I've had to help my children navigate their hurt feelings SO many times. It is amazing how often just ONE PERSON can cause so much heartache for a child. It is a tough lesson to learn compassion for the person who is mean and ignorant.

I'm sorry that happened but thank you for being so open about it so that maybe someone else will be better able to handle it when it happens to them. You are a wonderful Mommy.

Whew! Sorry for the novel length comment!!

mommytoalot said...

I do think sometimes it is a parent thing, because most children are very open to differences. To be out and out mean though is not an excuse. If a parent wasn't around, I would have told that child he or she was being mean. I have had kids laugh at Joe, not because of the way he looks but his seemingly odd behaviours. I've approached them and said "now that's not very nice.. " and then explained why he acts that way. Most of the time the kids were very receptive.
...One time at church, Joey was still in the nursery and another little boy around the same age asked me his age. I told him...and then said..but he still likes to play with toys the little ones play with. The other boy watched a bit and then asked."is he autisic"..See this child knew and was very appropriate..although no does not have autism his disability is hard to explain to kids..but they are acutely aware he is indeed different yet mostly he is still strangers ..

Rachel said...

I very much hurt for you - I can't imagine how painful that would have been. It's one thing to be personally attacked, but to see your child attacked? I would have come unglued.

I think that you are working through this in a very Godly manner, and you are doing a great job getting the word out there and helping people have compassion who wouldn't normally understand from their lack of experience.

Thanks, Marie!

Jennifer Ortiz said...

Aw I am sorry some kids were mean to Jack, that's just not right. Your right, it's just the way they are raised, and you are the better parent.

Anne Hurd said...

I love your blogs! They helped get me through the first few months of Aiden's life. It was an insight into a world that was just beginning for us and it was not one of those awful text book explanations. I have always wished people were more open minded but now days it is even more so. Jack is amazing and wonderful. He is a hero with the best parents. Thanks for sharing!

Marie said...

Thank you everyone for stopping by and offering encouragement. The blogosphere is a wonderful thing!!!

Mammatalk said...

Keep on doing what you are doing. It is the right thing. My favorite amount of darkness can extinguish a single flame!

Marie said...

Thank you Mamatalk. I like that quote too!

Anonymous said...

Big hugs Marie! You are raising Jack to be a better person and inspiring others to do the same. I'm sorry that feeling isn't universal though.

Muthering Heights said...

I agree with you - it is probably they way the children are raised that affects their reactions. I'm sorry you had that terrible experience! :(

Jamie said...

I really love to read your blog. Your outlook is so refreshingly positive and brave. I really have loved reading about Jack, about your family.

I do understand that it's hard for people to know how to handle things - but at the same time, it is our job as parents to teach our children - so for those kids, I don't blame them, I blame the parents who maybe chose not to deal with it or thought it unimportant.

Thanks again for such an inspiring post.

Michelle said...

I imagine it did hurt :( I'm sorry you and Jack had to experience that. It is hard, and sometimes, some kids are just plain mean.

I took Kayla roller skating for the first time EVER so she was very slow and cautious on the skates...she played 'limbo' with everyone else and her 2nd time around I heard the kid behind me say "why is she going so sloooow. It's taking FOREVER!" I know that wasn't 'hurtful' per se, and Kayla didn't hear or understand, but I also realize she'll get more of these types of comments as she grows up too...and as the parents we hurt for our kids.

Wish I had some great words of wisdom...just wanted to send some cyber hugs.