Monday, January 23, 2012

It Happened

It happened. I knew it would ... someday. I knew it ... but nonetheless, I was not expecting it at that moment, and it hurt.

This last Monday Ivanna had an appointment with our wonderful pediatric ophthalmologist in our area, and so she and I were sitting in the waiting area. No big deal. However, we have taken to the routine of no longer giving her naps, so that she will sleep through the nights. Trade off? She gets a little squirmy in the afternoon, especially in public places. When she is tired, she tends to make more noises, fidget and just act a bit restless in general. To me? Just Ivanna. To my other kids ... just Ivanna. But ... to others ... a little different.

There were three other little girls in the waiting area with their parents. While I struggled to keep Ivanna calm and reassure her by rubbing her hands, etc. - I noticed that these sweet little girls were not playing in the play area, or reading books, or giggling or talking to one another. They squarely had their eyes locked on Ivanna. So much so that their Mother sort of gently tried to divert their attention ... with no luck.

What these little girls were doing was NORMAL, it was fine, it should not have bothered me. To them ... Ivanna was different, acting differently, looked different. I even had a moment of sympathy as the Mother who was red faced, tried to scoot their stares away from my little girl. I felt her embarrassment, I have been there before.

I blame pregnancy ... hormones ... lack of sleep ... whatever. But at that very moment I fought my tears. I swallowed hard as I kissed Ivanna's cheek. Why? Why was that so hard for me. It's normal. I have even expected it, and really those little girls were doing nothing derogatory. They were just curious.

I have thought about that moment off and on this week. I don't typically get emotional about things like that ... and like I said, it could be that perhaps I am a little sensitive lately. However, I can't help but draw a parallel.


That word. Never has it really bothered me. Mostly because I think the general population uses it so flippantly. So mindlessly. Not intending to hurt one particular group of people. Even after giving birth to Justus, people would slip and use that word in front of me, then catch themselves and apologize - but I really wasn't hurt by the word. Perhaps I even felt sorry for their juvenile expression as sounding inept, but never did it hurt my feelings.

But now ... I think of that moment in the waiting area. Those little girls intended nothing by their stares, and thankfully my sweet Ivanna was completely oblivious to the fact that she was drawing such attention. But still ... it hurt. It was an awful feeling to be confronted that yes, my daughter - and Justus and Max are different. Different to the point of sometimes being a spectacle. Different in the sense that they may not always act how others deem appropriate, and this will cause reactions. Different as deemed by others NEGATIVELY. Not different as I have come to celebrate it ... beautiful, joyful, full of spirit, unique, strong, so full of love.

So ... what if?

What if Ivanna had caught the glimmer of their curiosity? What if when Justus is older he overhears someone saying retard? What if Max questions why that word is used to define people (and him) in a derogatory fashion? What then?

I trust God will give our family the ability to graciously deal with those feelings and questions if and when they present themselves. However, I also know the hurt I felt on Monday in that waiting area. I realized the impact of a simple stare. I truly pray that my children don't endure hurt hearts simply because they exhibit different traits or behaviors. More than that ... I do believe now that God sort of opened my heart to the realization that I may need to gently remind those in our midst that the word 'retard' is just unnecessary. Now while my children are young, is a perfect time to learn that lesson.

Words do matter.

I'm also grateful God does things like opens your eyes through small little situations. Opens your heart through circumstances. All so you can learn and become better at what you do. For me, it's being mindful of how those stares or that word could impact my child.

Thanks for visiting. Please excuse the post dripping with emotion. ;)


linn98367 said...

Charissa,I so understand this.My daughter may not look it,but she is impaired.An almost grown women's body,but the mind of a little girl.I too have heard people so flippantly use that word and it does sting.Everytime I have to explain to yet another doctor that my daughter is not a normal 17 yr old and they ask me in front of her how impaired is she it stings.When I get the typical Christmas letter of kids growning up,moving on, getting married and getting jobs and yet see my kids declining further mentally it stings.

You are in this group of mom's of special needs kids.We are different our language is all it's own.Things are just so different for all of us,but sometimes it's hard not to fit into the outside world.It hurts having people stare at your child that you see as the picture of perfection.I've cried many tears for the times my kids,especially my daughter are treated cruelly or are rejected because of an unrealistic fear of them having a seizure and them "catching their illness."

My love to you Charissa.You're such an Amazing mom.You amaze me with your strength.

I think your kids are all so precious.

nicole said...

as a mom of several children i have and still do..practice politeness with the kids stareing is rude and if a child is throwing a fit etc..there to mind there kids help out with the developmentally disabled children at school and love reading the adoption blogs to show them were all gods children and should be treated as such..

stephanie said...

I didn't know you had a blog! We're FB friends! Sorry this is the kind of post that led me too it. I've seen that stare towards my Em from another child and I did the same thing, I just kissed her. And the same thoughts went through my head too. Em is three and was completely oblivious to anything going on, but I saw it and it hurt my heart. Your family is beautiful!!! And I'm glad I found your blog!

heatherbrown said...

My 5 year old son does not physically appear to be delayed, but because of his seizure disorder, he is. He struggles with an obvious speech disorder, and he is painfully aware. He is so embarrasssed by it that he won't reply to other kids who ask him his name or if he want to play. He calls himself Stupid and Baby. It hurts my heart so much, that I often wish that he was unaware of other kids' reaction. Your children are ALL beautiful. I have learned that Unique = Irreplaceable = Priceless!!!

Janet said...

I am so sorry that you felt so hurt by this experience. I too have been there. I too have seen my daughter through the eyes of others and realized that she is so very different. I too have rubbed the palms of a little girl in the efforts to keep her relaxed (and to keep me relaxed!) Ivanna as you well know is so incredibly loved and precious. I hope that those other sweet girls who were so curious about your Ivanna had the opportunity to chat with their own mother later to learn more about Down Syndrome. Hopefully this was an opportunity for Ivanna to teach others even if there was not an outward effort to do so. I believe that Ivanna touched those little girls lives forever. Thank you for sharing.


Mcarthur Mile said...

I was at winco the other day and there was a teen boy with ds there. Clayton ran up to him and shook his hand, said hi and they had a nice chat about whatever. This is only because of being around your family that we have grown to love all of you just the way you are. Kids are always weird about what they don't know. But I know that me and my kids have a deep love and are comfortable around anybody because of having the blessing of being your friends and involved in you life. We love you guys.

Ben and Melanie said...

I had used that word before in my younger life and never meant it in "that way"... all through our adoption I never really thought I`d be that sensitive to it because I have known others that were very sensitive about it. However since we have had our Son Judd home... when people say that word It just jumps out at me like never before... Like it`s screaming Neon!!! It does sting a bit... Strange how things and children and people and GOD change us :)!!! Hugs!

Faith for Hope said...

Praying for you right now, my friend. I've never been in your shoes for the exact reason, but for something similar, as far as the stares go. I must admit I did get a little tired of explaining Joseph's club foot and his casts to perfect strangers no matter where we'd go. One time in Walmart, one lady did everything short of accusing me of breaking his leg (he was about 2 months old).

You know something, I've learned that life goes on... and to my knowledge, I've never seen that lady again. Some people did listen and learn when I answered their questions.

I know, just as with you and Down Syndrome, I had never really heard a lot about club feet before Joseph was born... I had (and am still having) on the job training. Yes, he still has on going Doctor appointments. And yes, while most people don't even know he has one (even though it's been "corrected" through surgeries... it's not "just a crooked foot")... pants hide a lot... and he can do MANY things, there are some things he will never be able to do.... but we don't dwell on those.

Praying for God's peace, wisdom and discernment to be given abundantly to you (and your family) the next time you notice the stares.

I love you, friend! Hugs, Grace

Janet said...

I commented yesterday but wanted to add ... many people will see Ivanna but will never "know" her life's journey. They will never kow what this amazing child survived and how far she has come. It is like a private badge of honor that she carries hidden out of sight. Ivanna is so so very much more that what many people will first "see". Than you for sharing her story with all of us who know what a journey she has led.



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