Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Life lessons

Esther asked the following in yesterday's comments:

"do you ever hear smirky comments behind your back as to why one of the girlies wears pull-ups? i mean, i know that they are little girls but still, you can tell, i am sure, by the way they talk and behave that they are older...i hope you don't get those negative remarks because noone can know your situation...so just wondering, if you don't mind."

The answer is no.* No one that I can think of has ever asked me why Anna is wearing a pull-up at an age when she shouldn't be wearing a pull-up. But there are probably a few reasons for that.  90% of the time, you can't obviously see that she's wearing one.  For her weekly gymnastics class, she usually wears shorts with her leotard.  And for dance, she wears tights.  In addition, she's a tiny peanut.  She's about the size of a three year old and there are some three year olds who are still potty training.

That being said, there have been a few comments that were not intended to be cruel but sort of stung anyway.  Mostly when strangers assume that she is a three year old who can't do all the dance steps or turn cartwheels or run as fast as the other kids because she is younger or not coordinated.  During those moments, I have shared that she has spina bifida and that we are "lucky" that she can even walk, never mind participate in a physical activity.  I speak politely because there has never been any rudeness.

*Now, Grammy has had one of those negative experiences, which she shared in the comments.  That was also the same mom who said that it was IMPOSSIBLE to have identical triplets.  And our gym, which has produced state champions, wasn't good enough for her daughter.

I don't share everything about Anna here.  Some aspects of her life need to remain private.  I share what I share with the hopes of educating others and because this is her life and our family.  She shouldn't ever be embarrassed that she was born this way.  Having Anna has taught me some important life lessons.  I will never judge an older child wearing a pull-up for one.  I will never wonder or question why a child isn't talking, running, playing, socializing, etc. like they are "supposed to be."

Everyone is good at something.  Not everyone is going to be a straight A student.  Not everyone is going to graduate from college.  Not everyone is going to be a doctor or a lawyer or a prima ballerina.  I want to support my kids and help them find something that they are good at and makes them happy.  Anna is going to be a superstar.  She is already a superstar.

When we discovered that Anna had spina bifida, I didn't immediately lament the loss of the life I thought my baby would have.  Maybe it was because I didn't even know that I was having her and all of a sudden, we were surprised with "you are pregnant with triplets and one has spina bifida and we actually didn't even know if she had a bladder until a few minutes ago."  I simply wanted my baby to  have life.

Five years later and that life is a bit more complicated now.  Rich and I fear that other kids will make fun of Anna.  We've had such a great experience so far with the public school system.  There are other children with special needs, both physical and learning, and there is even another child with spina bifida who is in a wheelchair.  I know that at this young age, kids don't see differences yet.  Call me overly optimistic but I have dreams that this generation will be different.


Just Me said...

People will make fun of her, every child gets made fun of. But she has two sisters that love her. Yes, she's different, in the way that my two kids are "different". We are all different, that's what makes us unique and human. She is being raised by amazing parents, with a wonderful family.

She will come home from school in tears, they all will. I'm an adult and still have "bad days" at work, and I have a professional job.

It's okay to be upset and cry, and you have taught all of your babies that.

And if anyone, ever, says anything...punch them in the face!

Sarah said...

Just Me - you are so right. I've been "bullied" in a professional job too. I've already started to teach them to stand up for themselves and be proud.

Christi said...

People and kids will always find a reason to make fun of another person. Anna is loved and has a wonderful family. She is strong and amazing. I have three children...not inital triplets or triplets at all..but they are all unique with their own strengths and struggles. As their mom, I'm just thankful that they are here and will do whatever I can to support, encourage and find joy in all that areas. Watching them grow and learn is such an honor. You're an amazing mom.

Just the Tip said...

Beautiful post Sarah. I really want to make sure both of our girls are raised not to judge, I can't control other parents or children but I will try my hardest and woe will be the day that she makes fun of someone.

She's already doing a great job we around kids in chairs, with walkers and she's even seen babies with limb deformities and she just plays. She doesn't ask questions or make a big deal about it.

It's scary, though.

You will have to do a post soon or email me about your MACE, are you not doing the bladder part too with the mitrofanoff??

Anonymous said...

Very well said. I especially loved the line "I will never wonder or question why a child isn't talking, running, playing, socializing, etc. like they are "supposed to be." It seems, at times, it takes us parents of special needs children to realize that. My little guy has autism. He can run, jump, play and is actually as happy as can be. Thank goodness....we are very blessed. However, he cannot yet speak at just under 3 years old. I can't tell you how many people question why he doesn't respond to them when they say hello. I know many don't have any ill will but it is painful each time someone does because this is a daily struggle for our family. I think we can have optimism that this generation will be different. As long as enough people teach their kids that people are different...and that is totally ok and awesome.

Your blog is beautifully written.

another mom said...

Thanks for this entry. you really hit on some things that have been hard for me to deal with. my boys will be four next month..not potty trainef and not speaking in such a way that anyone can understand what they say exvept for themselves and my dh and i. strangers actually ask what language are they speaking...because i am asian and they assume it is some eastern language. it is embarrassing when i say uhh that is english.

Hope's Mama said...

Fantastic post, Sarah. I'm like a broken record, you're such a great mum.

Tracey's Life said...

What "Just Me" said!!! Bravo!!! I don't think I could have said it better. All kids do get teased because kids are mean. In my experience, it has how we handle it at home that really matters. You and Rich and Grammy seem to have handled triplets and Spina Bifida beautifully up to now, I know you will continue to do so and help Anna emotionally as she learns more and more what her body will and will not do as she grows. Her familie's love is going to be what gets her through, and she has an abundance of that. You are amazing parents.

Heather Sullivan said...

As mothers, as parents, we are in charge of shaping this generation. Our parents did a better job than their parents in creating kinder and more tolerant individuals (for the most part) and I believe that we can do the same. If we don't teach our children to see differences as a bad thing but rather to embrace all people as individuals, we will succeed in our endeavors. I truly believe this world can be made a better place by the way we raise our children.

Jan said...

Thank you for this beautiful post.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah,
I have been reading your blog for quite some time, but I don't think that I have ever commented before. My name is Lauren, I am 17 and I have a younger sister (Erica) who is 13 and has autism. Like you I have always worried about Erica's peers making fun of her because of her disabilities. But I truely think that kids now are some of the most open minded and kind children I have ever seen. Erica is at that awkward age in middle school where it is not okay to be anything but normal in their minds, so I was always very nervous for her at the age she is at now. I can honestly say though, that we have never had any problems. Kids from her school will always come up and talk to her if they see us while we are out (she doesn't even know half of them!) and they try really hard to include her in their activities. I think that Anna will be okay, and she always has two awesome sisters to back her up if anything were to happen!


Jilly said...

Yep, it's common for us to think that "kids are mean" because the ones we were around likely WERE. And there's likely going to be some pushing of boundaries, feeling out that whole social thing. However, I don't think children are inherently mean. Thoughtless, maybe, with a limited worldview, definitely. But usually it just takes knowing one person who's "different" in some way to expand their minds on that particular issue, so it's up to us to expose them to all kinds of people. I think so much of how they react to someone different from themselves, whether it's compassion, derision, fear, etc, comes from observing their parents - like the mom who was "too good" for your gym.

KC Squared said...

Thank you for sharing with us, the blogger world :) I love hearing about your stories and I agree with the comments above that everyone. However I think that it's on the generation now (parents, grandparents, students, kids, etc) to take a stand and let others know that it's okay if we all don't look/act/behave like we are expected.

Thank you again for sharing...you give us hope!

Sarah said...

Thank you all for commenting. And Laura - your comment made me tear up. Thank you for sharing your sister's story with me.

You are all right - this generation will be different if WE as parents make it different. I think we are more open now - the world was different when I was growing up. No one talked about kids with disabilities or needs -just as they didn't talk about miscarriages and stillbirths. We are changing that.

Rebecca said...

Hi, I'm pregnant with twin boys, and a middle school teacher by trade. I love your attitude about Anna's relationship to the world...I have a variety of students with special needs in my class, and I can tell you that children are curious and uninformed much more often than they are mean. For example, they are afraid to accidentally hurt a person whose movements suggest frailty. If given a brief, matter-of-fact explanation, and maybe some tips on interacting, they readily follow an adult's example and treat all their classmates with kindness and interest. What I see far more often is children who have special needs who have been so protected or sheltered from interaction and really from their own potential, that they shy away from others and become convinced that their capabilities are far lower than they actually are. This is heartbreaking! By encouraging Anna to participate in activities and interact with others, and even by showing her how to field awkward questions, you are giving her the greatest gift - belief in herself!! She is a lucky one to have such great parents!