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. ;)