Dear Parents

As I sipped my coffee early this morning, I casually scrolled through my Facebook page. Buried amongst the copious amounts of baby pictures and political posts was an article from a local Idaho paper. The article was regarding a father’s Facebook post detailing the senseless and cruel bullying his son endures because he has Treacher Collins Syndrome. Dan, Jackson’s father, details what his son has lived through- the intensely cruel name calling, the brutal physical abuse, and he painfully describes that this abuse has driven his eight year old son to consider ending his life.
 
My heart is broken. I sat quietly this morning for the better part of an hour, tears rolling down my face. The emotional reaction wasn’t only because I worry this will happen to my child, it’s also because if a child with TCS feels pain – we all feel pain because one of our tribe has been brutally hurt.  I don’t know Jackson’s parents and I’ve only now written to his father.  But, when I study Jackson’s sweet smile, his perfectly shaped face, I see Landon.
 
Syndromes like TCS have incredibly similar facial features so that we may realize that we are one tribe. Each child belongs to us to help support, love and make sure that if they endure pain at the hands of others that they hear from us that they are loved.
 
Last weekend, while visiting family, we went to an art fair. Booths lined the roads with trinkets, clothing, paintings and games. Our girls immediately saw baskets of prizes and rushed to get in line to spin a prize wheel hosted by a local company. As we approached, a boy seated next to the prize table locked onto Landon’s face and  grimaced. His arm stretched out before him and his finger pointed directly at her. “What’s wrong with her eyes? Do you see them?!” he yelled toward his father. His father immediately grabbed his arm and twisted the child toward him, leaning in for the lesson, reprimand, nothing that we could hear. I stood behind our girls and ushered them up to the table. I helped navigate the choice of fidget spinner, glasses or lollipop while Eric went over and introduced himself to the father. While Eric worked to create empathy and share kindness with the seemingly embarrassed dad, the boy was wailing from whatever his dad had said. We left quickly afterward, but I turned around, trying to catch the boys’ eyes to smile- an attempt to show him we were just another family. They had moved and we didn’t see them again. As I read Jackson’s story and recall the finger pointing at Landon, it’s easy to fear the world in which these children live. What I choose instead is to try to teach, to ask more of the parents I know and who read my stories here.
 
Parents, I implore you alongside Jackson’s family to sit this weekend and talk to your children. Many of you have emailed me the beautiful stories of conversations you have had with your children. You have generously shared comments your kids have made about wanting to be Landon’s friend, about how they plan to help change their classroom or school. But here I am asking again, because these conversations are required of us regularly as parents. Not once and done, but as a part of our running dialogue.
 
Tell your children Jackson’s story, show them photos of Landon and talk about how she loves Trolls and Moana and hilariously does the chicken dance when music plays. Tell them how these completely normal children with kind and open hearts are sometimes treated like they don’t belong. They are treated as outsiders simply because their cheeks rest lower than theirs. Their eyes are smaller and they may need help hearing with hearing aids.  But these same children love and want to be loved just like your children do- just like we all do.
 
Ask your children if they know any children in their school that sit by themselves. Ask if there are children that have any differences that they’ve noticed. Hearing aids or different sized ears, and listen to the stories they may tell you. Teach them ways to show kindness. Describe what actions they can take to live a life of inclusiveness. If you and your family haven’t read Wonder, buy it here. Encourage your children to read it and talk to you about how it makes them feel, what have they learned, and let their natural kindness lead the conversations.
 
Children are not born to see differences. No one in Landon’s three years of school has yet to even notice something different about her except that they want a headband just like hers. One dazzling child has exclaimed that she wants bahas too. They learn to notice differences and judge them because we aren’t engaging as parents on how to understand them, nor are we giving them the tools on how to respond with kindness and love. We avoid these conversations because we think it will be too hard to navigate or assume they teach this stuff at school. I am asking you now to change that today.
 
I know there are a million things on our plates as parents. I know that the world is also a very scary place in so many ways right now. But this, this is also important. These are all of our children.  Look at us, hear our stories, imagine yourselves as the parents of sweet Jackson. And ask yourself, how can you help us in our mission to change the world? How will you teach kindness to your family
 
Below is Dan’s Facebook post:
 
“My heart is in pieces right now…my soul feels like it’s ripping from my chest…this beautiful young man my son Jackson has to endure a constant barrage of derogatory comments and ignorance like I’ve never witnessed. He is called ugly and freak and monster on a daily basis by his peers at school. He talks about suicide…he’s not quite 8! He says he has no friends and everyone hates him. Kids throw rocks at him and push him shouting these horrific words…please please take a minute and imagine if this were your child. Take a minute to educate your children about special needs. Talk to them about compassion and love for our fellow man. His condition is called Treacher Collins. Maybe even look it up. He’s endured horrific surgery and has several more in the coming years. Anyway…I could go on…but please educate your children. Please…share this. This shouldn’t be happening…to anyone.”
 
Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, child and closeup
 
And to Dan, as I wrote you earlier this morning- I see you, I hear you and I am sending you more love and continued strength. Jackson- you are one handsome devil. I would love nothing more than to meet you one day and cannot wait to write a letter with my children and send it to you. You are all loved very much.
 
xoxo,
Eloise

 

Calling all Parents…

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.

Love,

Eloise

On being with bug

I’ve been having a major internal war with myself. Here I am, the girl who loved school and was constantly motivated to get a great job, work harder, get promoted… etc… and all I want to do now is stay home with bug. I understand the women in the Lean In camp. I do. But now that she is mobile and more alert and active..I don’t want to miss a minute. I’m in the throws of a work-life crisis.

It all started when I watched our nanny do her speech routine one morning. I rushed over and participated and noted that I had to correct her several times. That’s okay…but it stuck with me. Then this morning crushed me. She crawled over to me, and climbed into my lap and put her hands on my face while she whined b/c she’s getting her first tooth. And I had to pick her up and hand her to the nanny and leave for work. Dagger to the heart.

I am stuck with the battle of I love my job and I’m fulfilled and I want to be with bug all the time and teach her, coach her, listen to her, sing and swing with her. Ugh.. I hate this.

Let’s not forget to mention that staying home isn’t an option financially so this is a daydream. But still. Dagger to the heart.

Sigh.

xoxo

Eloise

Bump goes the baby

Over a week ago I put Landon in the middle of the queen bed in her room for a second. One second. Our nanny had mistakenly put a travel crib sheet on the changing pad and God forbid something be wrong in her room. I turned to change it and in that one moment thought “that isn’t safe” and as I whipped back around, there she went. Splat onto the rug… head first.  Bahas went flying and with their screeching came Landon’s screaming.

I could not breathe. I snatched her up and she wailed. She turned deep red and wailed.  Thank God for the thick carpet from Overstock. Thank God for a thick rug pad.  Thank God.  It took me 30 minutes to realize it but… she was fine.  She started smiling again. I’ve never worked so hard in my life to make her smile, but she did.  Then she laughed. Then she started acting like nothing happened.  But I could hear the thud in my head. Over and over again I would picture her lying there and shudder.  This was a new kind of shame spiral- way worse than the ones in my 20’s that happened on Sundays.

Ugh.  That is the worst I’ve ever felt in my 32 years.

Her little red bump on her head subsided by the next morning.  I checked on her 5 times that night as she slept. I just sat there in the dark and listened to her snore breathe. I didn’t take a real breath until the next afternoon. Sound dramatic?  Yeah, probably.  It’s strange…. when they get hurt… it’s a very clear moment when you think of how big of a job mothering really is. It’s paramount to everything else.

I’m telling y’all about my shame on the blog so we can commiserate.  It happens to us all. We’re not bad moms. We just have too much going on. All the time. There’s too much on my mind literally every second of the day. Money. Relationships. Therapies. Diaper Sizes. Shoes. And in those moments….I’m really not focused on her.  It’s not possible to be focused all the time.  Things will happen. This will hopefully not happen again, but other things will. 

What I’ll do though now, is try to be present more with her. I actually do not get a lot of time with her. I get three days a week, nights but lately she’s so cranky more of those nights it’s tough.  But I’ll work harder at being there and focusing on what she’s doing.  She’s growing up too darn fast not to try. 

Here she is an hour after her swan dive…

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One happy little bug. Oh well… my first and not my last shameful mothering moment.  I hope y’all have great weeks!

xoxo

Eloise