I deeply love this photo. I see her so clearly. Her beauty, her innocent playful smile, her inquisitive and joyous spirit. So how do I ensure that’s all she sees? How do I protect her yet allow her to build the strength she will inevitably need. Strength that is derived from experiencing elements of pain at the hands of others in one’s life. And what are the lessons I need to teach her, more so than other children? What’s more… how could I teach those around her to accept her or see her as I do? OR teach those around my friends’ children who also have differences?
I was up really late one night, sleep was elusive. The above paragraph I wrote around 2am after I’d tip toed out of Landon’s room, quietly closing the door behind me. As I studied this photo, these questions emerged, one after the other. One of the trickier questions all parents face is how to protect our children while giving them the life experiences they need to not only survive but thrive in a complex world. This dichotomy feels ever present in my life. I feel I have a heightened sense of it and have since she was born. I wrote a post back then about “Walking the Line,” and my words when she was three months ring true at three years, and will for the rest of her life probably. Are we to protect and shelter, or teach as best we can and cast them into the world hoping we’ve done our best? I picture putting all of these pads and a helmet on her and sending her charging into a room full of judgy tweens… and I shudder.
What if I was to create a program- beyond teaching the book Wonder? What if it was a version of the Kind Campaign, the Wonder story and centered simply on the complex nature of acceptance. Acceptance of oneself, acceptance of others with differences, and finding love and connection through this acceptance. What would this program look like? Who would I try to reach? Middle school students? High school? Where should it start and what is the content of the conversation? These questions seem to pour of me when I reach this tipping point (which by the way, I’ve reached many times).
Basically these questions are all derived from THE question of my life. What am I going to do with the gift that’s been given to me? I’m not talking about religious or spiritual gifts. I’m talking about the ability, or gift, of my unique experience of being Landon’s mother. It’s more than just doing that incredible job- mothering- it’s more around her and having this chance to change the world around us. Namely I’m talking about changing others’ opinions and ways of loving and living with one another. I don’t think I’m anything special, this isn’t “a look at me I’m so gifted post.” I’m simply saying that in becoming her mother, I’ve always known it came with a profound, deep sense of responsibility to the world around us. How can we, or I, change how people treat, love, respect not only those with differences but maybe even themselves? There it is. That’s the calling or the gift or whatever you like to call it.
So far my answer to these nagging questions looks like a classroom campaign or a book. Probably using the book in a classroom or something like that. While I run, I sometimes map out the content or the chapters of this book. It’s not my voice that I want entirely though. I want your voices. You.. those mothers and fathers of children who are different. I feel so strongly that the ties that bind us, through these beautiful differences, are so much stronger than anything that could ever divide us. I’d love nothing more than to bind our stories together and create something truly lasting. Change. Change in how another mother or father sees themselves or how a child may feel who has a rare syndrome or is missing an arm. I sincerely believe we have this ability and chance to affect change in a would-be bully. What if this collection of stories enables affection and love? What if it creates these ties I’ve just mentioned? Don’t we have to try then?
What I would like to do is to invite you, friends I know and others I’ve yet to know, to consider sharing your story of what it means to be this kind of parent. Why was it scary at first and what have you learned? What kind of story or message would you want to read when you were first in your shoes? I picture this book being that shining light someone will find at 3 am right after their baby is born and they are terrified. When all you want is to read a story about a family or parent just like you. When you desperately don’t want to feel alone in your journey- BAM- you read this book and one of the chapters if not all of them resonate. We’ve all had those nights or days when a stranger’s tale is surprisingly more comforting than well wishes of people you’ve known your whole life. It’s why I love so many mothers and fathers of children that I’ve never met. It’s why we can genuinely care about one another because our children’s differences bind us together.
So, this is my round about, totally unclear way of recruiting stories. I am all ears and would love nothing more for anyone and everyone interested to write me, or comment on this post and let me know if you are interested in joining me on this journey. A book or a conversation in a classroom – one of these or something entirely different will be our destinations… I would rather figure that out together.
Who wants to join me?