In the 7th grade, I was a pimply-faced 12-year-old. My breakout that year was bad, and my mom didn’t allow make-up. As I tried desperately to be a cool girl, I remember overhearing a guy call me “pizza face.” I wanted the world to open up and swallow me as I stood there in the hallway. It didn’t seem fair I had to keep walking and sit through math class feeling like the ugliest and most worthless person on the planet. That’s probably the day we learned fractions, hence why I still can’t understand them.
At 28, my acne has cleared up, and my outer shell has hardened a bit. I still don’t understand fractions, and I blame the mean boy for that, who I pray is somewhere with a beer gut in his mom’s basement. Actually, I take that back. I hope that boy grew up and had children of his own. Maybe a daughter who he would do anything for, or a son who is his little buddy. Seeing pain on either of their faces would cause pain of his own, I know it. I’m the same way.
And, so, I hope this now-grown-up boy teaches his children that each child in their class deserves a kind word. Whether they come across another child with unfortunate acne, or maybe clothes that seem a little big as a result of hand-me-downs. I hope he teaches them to smile at the little boy in the wheelchair at the end of their table, or offer to hold the door for the child who walks in the class with his leg braces on.
I hope he can teach them to be mindful for the kids who have a harder time exercising patience, or for the kid who has trouble making decisions. I plan on teaching my children that. It’s just important as reading, or math, or learning to tie your shoe. The little girl with the bald head from chemo still needs a buddy to sit with at lunch… and the little boy with the small hand might be a little self conscious himself.
Parents of special needs babies live in fear of them growing into special needs kids. Babies don’t need acceptance and validation from anyone but their parents, and they usually, hopefully, have that in abundance. We wrap them in our arms, like a cocoon, and tell them they’re beautiful, they’re brave, they’re strong, and courageous. They’re our inspiration. Their smile brings tears to our eyes and a puts a flutter in our heart.
But, they’re growing. They’re always growing, and we eventually will feel their fingertips slip from our hand, and we will be left holding only hope. Continue reading