Bella asked me to talk with her class. So the next day, I emailed her teacher. She was right on board and welcomed me to come to class THE NEXT DAY. As a mother, with my first child, who happens to be a beautiful girl, who happens to be smart and kind hearted, who just so happened to be born a little different, I'm learning as I go. Even with the second kid and the third one, I'm still learning. Being a parent is no joke! The pay is not in cash money but in hugs, tears and kisses instead. I'm learning, I'm growing, she's learning and growing too. One thing is for sure, we are all in this together, united we stand.
Today, I braved the crowd of twenty-something kindergarteners and one teacher (who has been doing this for 20+ years). I was nervous, my stomach hurt, my heart ached. Would I say the right things? Would they understand what I was telling them? Would they understand her difference and her abilities? I hoped, I prayed, I crossed my fingers and I went for it.
I sat on the floor with Bella by my side and my arm around her as I talked.
"Who has seen the movie Finding Nemo?" *everyone raised their hand except one.
"You seriously haven't seen Finding Nemo?" I asked him.
"Oh yeah, I have" he replied. Wake up little guy, I thought, you've only been here for 30 minutes.
"So who can tell me what's different about Nemo?" Many raised their hands with responses "He has stripes", "He's orange", "his brain doesn't work the same way as ours" (To which the teacher responded, um yes it does, I think you've got that part a little wrong), "OH I know, I know, he has a big flipper and a little flipper"
"Great job guys! You are all right! Now, who noticed something a little different about Bella?" Again, hands raised and responses started "She has blond hair!", "She has one hand and all of the rest of us have two!" "She's the only kid in the class with one hand!"
"You guys are all right! Way to go!"
I went on to explain that she was born that way. That when she was in my belly her hand never grew and it was just the way she was born. She could do everything that they did but she sometimes did them different. Then I said each of us do things a little different because that's the way we were made, all different. Some have blond hair or brown hair, green eyes, brown eyes... I explained that she can cut paper, write her name, get dressed by herself, hold hands, play play dough. I showed them how we held her right hand and then how we held her left hand and said "See it's just a little bit different but she can still hold your hands!" I explained that it doesn't hurt her or bother her at all and it's nothing to be scared of at all. There's nothing scary about it. It's no big deal! Then I let them ask questions.
"How can she play play dough?" One girl asked.
"Hmm... how do you play play dough anyways?" I looked at her. She showed them how she rolled things with her left hand and pressed down with her left hand.
"How come she has that little ball on her hand?" I explained that would have been where her thumb was but it never grew so it's just a little ball that doesn't bother her or hurt her or do anything.
"How does she cut paper if she can't hold the paper?" Again, I looked at her and said "How do you cut paper?" And she showed them that she holds the scissors in her right hand and uses her left hand to hold the paper down.
"But she can't trace her right hand because she can't hold a pencil with her other hand"
"You are right, but I bet someone could help her... who do you think could help her?"
"A grown up"
"Or a FRIEND could help her too" Her teacher piped in. They liked that idea!
"What if we hold her hand too tight?" I told them that she would tell him, "won't you?" I asked her.
"Yep, I will" Bella said.
The end... well almost. It was short and sweet and only a little bit overwhelming for me. She seemed to be very happy that I was there and that we talked about it.
From one parent to another, do what's best for your child, whatever that may be. It was best for us to tell her that we could talk to her class if she wanted. She said no initially and that's A-ok! Then a day later, she changed her ming. That's ok too. For us and our family, that was what was best.
As parents, we consistently struggle with doing what's best and what's right and worry about being judged. I'm here to tell you, YOU are doing a great job! Your child may not be able to tell you that, but you are! Congratulations, you've made it! The sleepless nights are worth it. The tiny soap eating monster at my house, he's worth it. The little lover boy that "nuggles" is worth it too. The days I spent standing up wondering how much longer I could stand and bounce my tiny baby girl to sleep, they were worth it too. It's hard work. It's no joke, it's the thunder dome baby! You've got this! We've got this! We are all in it together!
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