Many moms and dads with children who look “physically” different from what is considered the “norm” will all encounter one thing in common: Bullies. Not all will be intentional, but any person, young or old, that make your child feel bad or treat them like outcasts will be bullies in that parent’s eyes.
Grace just celebrated her third Halloween, but she was about 3 months when she had her FIRST Halloween. She had not yet had her lip repair on her bilateral cleft lip. We had gotten used to stares and questions, but one particular incident struck a nerve.
It was cold and windy and slightly raining when trick-or-treat hours were happening, so my parents had Grace and were watching trick-or-treaters from the window. My husband and I were at the door handing out candy and braving the cold in the doorway. One little girl, probably only about 5 or 6 years old saw Grace in the window and looked to her sisters and mom and said, “Look at that baby’s face. It looks like a pig baby.” Only my mom and I really heard her, but my mom instantly became furious, while I held back tears. I truly don’t think the girl was trying to bully my infant child. She just did not understand. Even I do not see children with clefts that often in public and she probably just said whatever she could without censorship because she was just a child.
It does not make it right.
So my advice to any parents out there with children who look different, whether it’s a cleft or lacking limbs or in a wheelchair, etc. Don’t let curiosity ruin your emotions. The best way to nurture this temporary cruelty is to help correct it. No, that does not mean parent someone’s child. That means show them kindness and teach them that we are all unique. Kids will say ill things without even knowing, but that doesn’t mean your child is a punching bag. If anything, it makes you a better parent for your own child by showing them how to handle these inevitable situations with grace and kindness.
Grace also has different hands and feet. I see long stares from shy children as they try to comprehend why Grace only has two fingers on her hand while they have 5. Some will be brazen and straight ask “what’s wrong with her hands.” I take these moments to teach!
“There’s nothing wrong with them. Her hands are just different and now she knows how to do what you can do with less.” Most of them will just go “ooooooooh” or “that’s cool!” because they are just kids.
I repeat. THEY ARE JUST KIDS! The beginning is the hardest I promise. You’re still new to learning about their differences too, and honestly, emotions are still raw.
I’ll never forget that Halloween. I am still constantly reminded of how we felt when a girl who thought she was just being a funny or just saying whatever popped in her mind never thought her words were unkind to just an infant. She was a learning experience for me because I know that however I feel, Grace will feel it much more because she has to live it. All I can really do is parent her to be strong and stick up for herself, but also know that though there are malice in some people as she gets older, she doesn’t have to let those questions break her.
Love, Veronica & Grace
Featured photo outfit: “Ghoul of Your Dreams” tee: Moots Clothing (Code MOOTSFRIEND), Reversible skirt: Lullababy Wear (Code GRACE15)