If you are ever going to read anything I write… I implore you to read this one. Sit with it for a while. Digest your emotions and what you will do if this is your child. How will you respond to a teachable moment?
As Landon stumbles into the restaurant, she veers left knowing that’s where the booster seats are parked. Smiling all the way, she throws her little body upwards, climbing into the seat all on her own. Bo casually strolls behind her, beaming at how self sufficient his little girl is. As they settle into their table just outside the playroom, Landon busies herself with reaching for things, looking at the slide in the playroom and asking, as always, for Elmo.
Most children notice Landon. It’s a natural curiosity when they see the hearing aids, the headband, her ears. We’ve grown accustomed to it. Even a while back when I described the silent staring teens, it was just staring. What happened next is the first of its kind in our world. The first time the world was cruel to my baby’s face.
While waiting patiently for their food, a commotion erupted a few tables away. Bo heard him then. A boy, 8 or 9 saying something about our girl. As if in slow motion, the boy walks right up to Landon with another girl in tow.
“Ewwwwwww, look! How disgusting is she?!”
The words hung in the air, he said, as rage filled Bo’s body. “WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?!?” he shouted at the young boy.
Fumbling for words, realizing that my husband’s tone meant trouble, the boy backtracked physically and audibly to explain he used his words wrong. His mother, sensing something must have happened, came over and quickly ushered him out of the place. They left and the altercation was over for all that had overheard. It was over for everyone else except Bo and his parents, who sat quietly and let what happened wash over them.
The encounter, that I didn’t even witness, has found a deep, dark hole in my heart and is resting there. One day this may happen and she’ll understand his words. She’ll know what names are said and that she’s being treated badly by a perfect stranger who knows not even her name.
So far we’ve lived in this bubble of silent stares yet nothing worse. The kids that play with her at her camp adore her. They rush through church and the gym to greet her. They save her favorite book for her and hug her when they see us in town. It’s the happiest bubble that protects our hearts.
This is a game changer in my endeavor to share our story with the world. This is the moment when we need to change the conversation.
What would you say to your child if he said that?
What would you do if your child asked you what was wrong with that baby?
I heard a story that the author of Wonder is a parent of one of those inquisitive kids. She told this reporter how she was eating ice cream with her child and someone just like Landon and Auggie walked in. Embarrassed by her inability to articulate the differences in another child, the author rushed quickly out of the store and avoided eye contact with the boy or his own mother. She later reflected on how poor of a choice that was for her and wrote the book as a tool and way to celebrate differences. Well since we’re not all authors…
I think it’s important to recognize these awkward times when your child asks something innocent and honest of you. When they ask questions about a child like Landon, I believe the BEST thing is to be honest and kind. Tell them that that child is beautiful and God makes us all different on the inside and outside. What’s most important is seeing the beauty in everyone. Treating everyone as we’d like to be treated. Embracing differences because we ourselves are very unique as well. If you’re so bold, ask if you can introduce your child to the other kid. Meet the mother. Look her in the eyes. Smile. It’s hard to form those words sometimes as you rethink if you’re saying it right. Saying them at all…is all that matters.
Most importantly, find a way to address their comments or questions any way that suits you. Have an open heart. Talk about it instead of shoving it under a blanket statement as in “don’t say that”! and leaving it there. You’ll get so much farther shaping their ability to accept and not bully by going the extra mile to discuss.
And to the little boy and his mother from today…. you should count your lucky stars I wasn’t there. I will pray for you tonight- that you should find manners, grace, kindness and the ability to learn to accept others into your hearts.