We booked a "fancy" camping trip to the Wisconsin Dells months back... then a family emergency came about and I had to emergently cancel our trip. So we rescheduled for a couple weeks ago. By fancy I mean, this place had a pool and tons of kid geared activities. It was the Yogi Bear Jellystone. (Review to come later!) It's a couple hours from us so we could easily be all loaded up the night before then hook up when Ryan got off and head out, with hopes to arrive before dusk!
One morning we opted to hit the pool before it got packed. We hit the pool around 930 and Bella was dying to go down the slide. 955 came and she was the first in line. While her and I were swimming just prior to this, I watched as two girls looked and whispered and then looked our way again.
Waiting patiently, she watched for the lifeguard to come to the slide. We made silly faces at each other while she stood in line and I stood in the pool. I noticed the two girls standing behind her, looking, then whispering back and forth, then looking at her hands again. I watched them then I watched her. I watched her some more. I noticed her hold her left hand with her right, covering her missing fingers. I knew she was aware. My heart was hurting for her.
I got out of the pool and made my way to her. I told her just a few minutes and the lifeguard should be over and I would be at the bottom of the slide to meet her. We talked about why they didn't open until 10 and the Spanish speaking lifeguards and how they were here learning English. She said "that must be really hard!" I stood there talking with her while we waited. I continued to be alert and aware of the girls behind her. I then opted to whisper in her ear.
"Boo Bear do you see those girls?"
"Yeah they keep looking at me." She whispered back in my ear.
"Do you want me to say something to them? Or do you want to say something to them?"
"No Momma, it's fine, it's not bothering me"
"Are you sure honey, we can teach them about how they are making you feel or about your hand" I continued to whisper in her ear all while the girls continued to look around me to see her hand.
"Mom, it doesn't bother me. I don't want you to say something. It's fine!" her tone more serious.
"Ok Boo, if it bothers you, you'll tell me right and we can talk to them."
"MOM stop it's fine!" even more serious in her tone.
I struggled. Do I say something even though she asked me not too? Did it really not bother her? Why did they keep whispering and staring? Do I say something when I see them while Bella is playing with her Dad? Do I respect my daughter's request to leave it alone? Where on earth were their parents and did they not notice this behavior?
I still struggled. She my daughter and I want to respect her. BUT I also don't want them staring at here. I don't want her to feel like she has to hid her difference. I respected her wishes, I didn't say anything.
She went down the slide a million times over. The highlight of her day I'm sure. Climbing the stairs to the top then racing down the slide to splash in the water. Her face was bright and her eyes twinkled.
At bedtime we talked. We talked about how it's not okay for people to stare and how it makes people feel. We talked about how it's important to teach people because not every kid with a difference is as confident as Bella. We talked about how she could chose to educate or ignore. She agreed. She also stuck by her decision to ignore it. Sometimes she just doesn't feel like talking about it or explaining it to every person that is curious. I can't say that I blame her. Sometimes I want to throat punch people who stare. We also talked about how it's not okay for her to feel like she has to hide her left arm and hand. She agreed but said "I wasn't hiding it, I can't hold my hands together like you, so that's how I do it"... I guess I never really thought about it like that... My girl educating her mama, teaching ME something new every day!
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