I Have Hope

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.

Hope that the children he encounters have parents who taught them kindness, who taught them to celebrate differences, rather than make fun of them, who taught them to ask question instead of point and whisper.

All I have is hope. Hope that I won’t cradle a crying 5-year-old in my arms, struggling to silence my own gasps and wails, as he tells me how left out he feels, or how no one wants to be his friend. That people made fun of him and laughed at him, whether it was for his limb difference, his feeding tube, his haircut, his clothes, or his eye color. This is my absolute worst fear.

Parents of the world, before sending your children off to school, sit them down and talk about what it means to be kind to others. Instill a sense of social justice in them. Talk to the shy kid. Talk to the kid who never smiles. Offer a friendly word to the child who seems nervous or scared. If we all had this talk with our kids, maybe the kid going through rough things at home wouldn’t come to the school to commit an act of violence on their way out of this world. Instead, perhaps they would look at school as their safety place, where they have friends waiting.

Perhaps I’m describing a John Lennon type of utopia, where people are kind and non-judgmental and want to be a force of good. It’s idealistic, unrealistic, and silly to even dream about.

But, as a parent of a child who might need a kind word on his first day of kindergarten to feel comfortable, all I can do is hope for this kind of place.

“Baby Mine”

Baby mine, don’t you cry.
Baby mine, dry your eyes.
Rest your head close to my heart,
never to part,
baby of mine.

Little one when you play,
don’t you mind what they say.
Let those eyes sparkle and shine,
never a tear,
baby of mine.

If they knew sweet little you
they’d end up loving you, too.
All of those people who scold you
what they’d give just for the right to hold you.

From your head down to your toes,
you’re not much, goodness knows.
But you’re so precious to me,
sweet as can be,
baby of mine.

If they knew sweet little you,
they’d end up loving you too.
All those same people who scold you,
what they’d give just for the right to hold you.

From your head down to your toes
you’re not much, goodness knows.
But you’re so precious to me,
sweet as can be,
baby of mine.
Baby of mine

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