Raising DifferentWhen I was in elementary school I caught the bus at the corner of Creekwood and North Colony every morning. And on my bus there was a boy that was ridiculed on a daily basis.
He was quiet. Shy? Maybe. More likely he was just conscious of the ridicule and decided not to "put himself out there" by showing the more real parts of him. While I don't pretend to be the most non-judgmental person in the world, I will say that I was drawn to this boy. I wasn't sure why at the time, but it is now very clear that this was part of God's plan. Part of His way of developing me into the person that I have become. The person that I needed to be.
He was quite a bit older than me - I was maybe in 2nd or 3rd grade, he in 5th or 6th. I remember someone asking him what he was going to dress up as for Halloween, hoping he would reply with something that would give them reason to make fun of him. He was unaware of the prodding and before he could respond, I flipped around in my seat and said to the other kids on bus 236, also older than me, "Just leave him alone." I surprised myself just as much as I think I surprised him and the rest of the children.
Even though I had once sat a few rows up from this same boy at the start of the school year and whispered with my friend from down the street about his speech impediment and odd, gangly stature, I had suddenly realized that my gut was telling me it felt wrong to do so. I felt compelled to stick up for him.
This incident on the bus has stayed with me for many years (obviously - I'm still talking about it today!) and now I know why. What I didn't know then was that I would eventually be given the very important task of raising a child much like the boy on the bus. A child that is different.
I often find myself obsessing over what Aiden will encounter in his school years. How many times will he be ridiculed for the way his hands look or the facial differences that will become more apparent as he grows? I wonder what I can do to make his road easier. Can I do something to educate people about Apert Syndrome so that it will be more accepted? What about simply educating people about differences in general - teaching them to appreciate, acknowledge, accept what is different rather than belittle, ostracize and embarrass.
I know it is an ambitious goal. And ironically, I write this on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A day that honors the dreams that Dr. King dreamed as well. Of a world that accepts people for their differences.
Most people can relate to my journey in some form or another. At some point in our lives, most of us will encounter adversity. It is my goal to give people a glimpse into what it is like to have a child that "looks different". If I can make people understand by sharing this ride then I am doing a small part. And if I can open people's eyes by making them appreciate their lives while also accepting those that might have a tougher road, unfortunately, due to the way they look, then I am one step closer to providing the life for my child that I want him to have. The life that he deserves.
Many people have asked what they can do to help. And while I am so very grateful to those who have offered support monetarily for the event we're organizing for CCA, I also want to remind everyone that perhaps the more important gift to give our family is that of spreading awareness. Share this blog with others. Send your friends and family a link about Apert Syndrome (see the link on the menu bar at the top). Point people in the direction of Apert.org or ccakids.com to help people learn about craniofacial conditions. Hopefully then, if they encounter someone with a craniofacial condition, rather than turning away to keep themselves from staring, they might feel brave enough - educated enough - to smile or start a conversation. To ask how their day is going. To treat them with the same respect that would be granted any other individual.
My purpose in life as a mother is much more clear than it ever was before. After much fear and reluctance, I readily accept this challenge. And I am starting to see how there are many aspects of my life that have unknowingly prepared me. I am grateful. I challenge you all to think about how your life would be affected if you were "raising different" too. How would you feel if your child was that boy on the bus. Wouldn't you want someone to stick up for him too? Food for thought.