So Finn is different, I realize this. Sometimes I just forget.
This week Joey and I were each individually reminded that our kid is not like other kids.
Joey and Finn go to the library on Wednesday mornings while I work a half day. Finn wheels around in the open spaces between bookshelves, approaching strangers and searching for Thomas the Train Engine books. This past Wednesday, Joey was reading to Finn and they both looked up to see a little boy, maybe six, standing in front of Finn’s wheelchair, mouth agape. Joey and Finn both said, “hi.” The little boy said nothing; he just stared. After a minute or so of awkward gawking, the father came over to retrieve his son. The boy asked his dad, “Why is he in that thing?” Joey didn’t get a chance to answer before the father quickly shooed his son away to the computers.
I held the daycare door open for Finn to wheel through on Thursday afternoon, boogers plastered to his tiny nostrils and hair disheveled from a day hard at play. We were approaching the sidewalk as I heard a child at the playground fence yell, “Hey! Look at him! Hey! Look! He has a rollercoaster!” I smiled. Kind of a cute description of Finn’s wheelchair. But he didn’t stop yelling. “Hey Dylan! Come here! Look! Look at him! What’s he doing? Hey!” The boy wasn’t being mean. In fact, I even heard him mutter,”Awesome!” I just got an uneasy feeling in my stomach. I felt like Finn was a spectacle. An endangered caged animal or something–something to gawk at. I lifted him from his chair once we finally made it to the car and whispered, “I love you so much, buddy. You are so special,” into his ear. He smiled, completely unaware of the situation. But someday he’ll get it and I’m going to be the one there to wipe the tears and remind him of his worth.
I know these are just two of a multitude of awkward, uncomfortable, painful situations we’ll encounter as Finn’s parents–and nothing compared to what Finn will personally face as a person with a disability in an able-bodied world.
And I know that there is a world of seasoned parents who have gone before us with a myriad of these difficult tales to tell, hidden in their hearts like an old photo album fraying around the edges.
Parents, will you teach your children that everybody’s different in some way? Some of us have glasses, freckles, only one parent, no parents, dark skin, bound to a wheelchair, braces, etc. And teach them that these differences are okay; that they make us beautiful, even. We can learn a lot from people who are different than us.
Another post on differences: Someone Else’s Skin