I know I'm not an ordinary ten -year-old kid. I mean, sure, I do ordinary things. I eat ice cream. I ride my bike. I play ball.... I feel ordinary. Inside. But I know ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don't get stared at wherever they go.... I would wish that I could walk down the street wthout people seeing me and then doing that look-away thing. Here's what I think: the only reason I'm not ordinary is that no one else sees me that way.
But I'm kind of used to how I look by now. I know how to pretend I don't see the faces people make. We've all gotten pretty good at that sort of thing: me, Mom and Dad, Via. Via doesn't see me as ordinary. She says she does, but if I were ordinary, she wouldn't feel like she needs to protect me as much. And Mom and Dad don't see me as ordinary, either. They see me as extraordinary. I think the only person in the world who realizes how ordinary I am is me.
-excerpt from Wonder, by R. J. Palacios (pg 1)
It's like people you see sometimes, and you can't imagine what it would be like to be that person, whether it's somebody in a wheelchair or somebody who can't talk. Only, I know that I'm that person to other people, maybe to every single person in that auditorium.
To me, though, I'm just me. An ordinary kid.
-Wonder (pg 306)
Have you read the book, Wonder, yet? It is excellent. Excellent. It is written for a young adult audience and is about a boy who is different. He is starting school for the first time as a fifth grader. I devoured the story. The first two days I was literally sick as I read. I was projecting a lot of my own fears for my children into the story of Auggie. I cried a lot as I read the book. Eventually, I found myself loving Auggie and his friends and family and cheering for them and feeling hope for my children. I related a lot to the parents (obviously) - they adore their son and his differences. The dad once says, I know you don't always love it, but you have to understand...I love it. I love this face of yours, Auggie, completely and passionately. And it kind of broke my heart that you were always covering it up. (pg 291)
I related to this family of four - this family who adored their children, who kissed each other a lot and said "I love you" frequently. I love my children and their differences - "completely and passionately." The story is not told from the perspective of the mom and since it is targeting a young adult audience, the mom and dad are kind of on the sidelines. But I couldn't help but learn from the mom and dad- how they made decisions and released their son to something hard and encouraged him through difficult days.
I thought I might write about how we are handling staring. I thought I would share some things that have worked for us in case you too are a mom on a journey of raising kids with differences and maybe need some fresh ideas for what to do with the starers you encounter everywhere you go. I thought I might share about some of the tough struggles we are going through - things no mom ever wants to hear from her child and that I am hearing frequently as my son gets so tired of dealing with staring or questions (even when the questions are respectful and fine- he just gets tired of it. Which is tricky because I think that it is important that we educate others but I kind of get why he is tired of being made to feel anything other than ordinary. I even thought I might share about some ideas a doctor shared with us to help us deal with anxiety and sadness about being different and the public perception of those differences... and how I gently and kindly told the doctor that those ideas invalidated and minimized the very real and very valid feelings of my child. Having brown hair is, frankly, nothing like having hand and feet differences. And I'd love to tell you the phrases we say together - how we remind each other that he is loved and smart and perfect just the way he is. We do hard things in this family. Lately, we do hard things a lot. This has been a hard few months.
But it's late. And I've got a first field trip ever to help with tomorrow. So I think I'll just leave this for a day or two. Go get Wonder. It really is a great book and a quick read. Or you can borrow my copy (although I've underlined a lot.) Hopefully you won't get sick to your stomach. But I can nearly guarantee you will cry and also cheer - especially if you are a mom of a child who is different.
And perhaps soon I'll gather some of my thoughts about staring and wanting to be ordinary while being extraordinary and balancing all of that. Maybe I'll share how I'm not balancing all of this very well lately but I'm just barely hanging on as we struggle through this. But we will get through this. By the grace of God, He will help us do these hard days.
I'll leave you with a few more quotes I loved:
...it's not all random, if it really was all random, the universe would abandon us completely. and the universe doesn't. it takes care of its most fragile creations in ways we can't see. like with parents who adore you blindly. and a big sister who feeels guilty for being human over you. and a little gravelly-voiced kid whose friends have left him over you....
-Wonder (pg 204) (fyi - Author does not use capital letters on purpose here.)
"'Greatness,' wrote Beecher, ' lies not in being strong, but in the right using of strength....He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts....'"
(disclaimer #1- the links provided are affiliate links, FYI. No one knows who I am and I am not being paid to write a review. In fact, I didn't really intend for this post to be a review... I just thought there may be some others out there who wanted to read a great perspective on being a kid with physical differences - told from a fictional perspective. )
(disclaimer #2- as a former high school teacher and avid reader, I often find myself editing books as I read them. I can't stand when books have errors in grammar or spelling. I mean, good grief! Don't they have editors and people who are paid to make sure they don't make mistakes?!
That being said, I don't have people being paid to make sure I don't make mistakes. And it's the middle of the night. And although I always required my students to follow proper citation rules, I can't remember all those rules now and I'm too tired to find them or to remember which set of rules I prefer. If you are reading this and find an error, please forgive me? And if you are an English teacher (JoAnna??) feel free to edit with your red pen.)