“Was she born wrong?”
“No, she wasn’t born wrong. Just different.”
Children are so innocent, they say whatever they think and feel. And they ask about what they don’t understand. Today was the first time that I was asked a question that wasn’t “PC”… and it was refreshing. It was a kid. A kid who just wanted to know more. He asked how old Ryan was and when I told him she was 3 but she’s little for her age, Charlie piped right up and explained that she doesn’t grow fast or learn fast. So he asked what he was wondering. Good for him.
I’m not sure why, but I think that I’m sensitive to people’s lack of comfort with taboo topics. I rarely give people the opportunity to ask about my husband and usually mention my partner before it can become awkward. Awkward for them, at least. I’m not uncomfortable about it at all. I tend to do the same with Ryan. A casual “She’s so cute! How old is she?” quickly turns into a explanation by me of her rare chromosome disorder. I am usually happily surprised by the lack of importance people put on the diagnosis. A typical response is “Well, that doesn’t matter!” or “She seems perfect to me!” or “She’s just adorable!” Then I say “Yeah, she’s a real sweetie!” as I think Why did I even need to say anything?
The bottom line is, people are curious. It’s human nature to want to know about something you don’t understand. I have a special needs child and I still want to know about other people all the time. And it’s not because I’m nosey… I’m just curious. If I see a child (or adult) with special needs, I want to know their diagnosis. I want to be able to say to the parent or caregiver “Hey, we’re right there with you! I’m in the secret society too! Give me a high five!” Ok, maybe not that last part but you know what I mean. I kind of wish there was some sort of hand signal I could give that let that family know we are in Holland too – like the “Jeep wave” but less obvious.
I’m sure many of you have often looked at a person with special needs and wondered if you should say anything. Everyone is different so I’m not going to speak for the entire special needs population and proclaim “This is what you should do” like some articles I’ve read. But for me, I’d like for Ryan to be acknowledged. It’s easy now that she’s still babylike for people to coo at her and say how cute she is, but my hope for the future is that people won’t ignore her. That they say hello to her. That they smile and ask her how she is, even if she can’t tell them. That they show her respect as a fellow human. Because even though she was born different, she was born RIGHT.