My kids are the most courageous people I know.
I really don't know how to explain the kind of courage they displays every single day but I'd like to try. Let me give a few examples - just from within the last week...
Last week, at the grocery store, a store employee pulled me aside after noticing Ellie's splints. The employee then proceeded to offer me her suggestions/advice as to how to "cure" Ellie so that she can be splint free by age 4 and never need splints again for the rest of her life - by using cowboy boots. It was so beyond me and not really worth the effort of explaining arthrogryposis or lifelong medical condition - in fact it would have been laughable if it didn't have me crying on aisle 3 instead.
At the park, later that day, a woman came up to me. She asked if she could be nosy about my son. At first I smiled and said sure... but then I laughed and said no.
She ignored me and proceeded to ask nosy questions. And I smiled and politely answered her and explained (in simple terms) that he is an amputee.
A few days later, at the park again, he was approached by some older girls who wanted to know why his hands and feet were different.
At a birthday party recently, two little girls (in that tricky age range I don't like - elementary school girls! ugh!!) were quite rude - obviously whispering/staring/pointing and talking about him as if he wasn't two feet away from them and trying to play with them. (Birthday parties are often really hard on us - a mix of ages and kids that don't all know each other makes for a hard situation on Will.)
While out and about last week, kids asked him about his body and Will answered them.
Today, at the swimming pool as we were leaving to come home for naps, Will saw a little boy arrive he recognized from his school. Will was very friendly and said hi and tried to talk to him. The little boy stared at Will & then turned to his mom and said, "he has really weird hands." Will & Ellie & I just turned around and smiled and walked on - it just wasn't worth the effort to try to address.
At church recently, a little girl was being rude about Will's hands. Apparently, after the teacher reprimanded her, she then began pouting and claiming no one liked her. Will stood up and declared that he would be her friend. (Even though moments before she had been mean to him about his limb differences.)
Will competed in his first gymnastics meet last weekend - and endured lots of stares from kids... & parents too.
on the podium & then with his coach at the gymnastics event
I sat in the stands so proud of my son - I watched him deal with new kids staring at his body... and I watched as he needed extra help from coaches to do some of the activities and others he is still trying to figure out his own way of doing them... and all of this in front of bleachers full of people.
I overheard someone behind me in the stands call him "tenacious." She was right. Goodness, she was right.
And at a event last night, a girl kept looking at him and loudly exclaiming, "Wow! Look how great your little hands are!" Over and over and over. It was really awkward and odd and maybe some sort of nervous reaction?!?
I could go on but those are just the first examples that popped into my mind and all are from the last ten days or so.
My point is that part of having obvious physical differences means dealing with curiosity everywhere he goes. Sometimes it also means dealing with prejudice and cruelty. I believe Will has an incredible depth of courage as he continues to want to go out in public. Sometimes he battles great anxiety and we develop our exit strategies and clues to give me to let me know when he has had enough and needs to leave and yet he continues to face his fears and face people who are going to mock him or ask incessant questions or not just accept him.
He is so very, very brave.
Will & I love reading chapter books together. We started a little over a year ago reading chapter books and have read a lot. I'll post soon about some of our favorites (maybe. If I remember.) I've noticed he loves the classics. He seems to love books like Boxcar Children, for instance, that have simple sketches rather than full color pictures, and that let him use his imagination.
Last week, we started the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, in anticipation of an event this week.
He is LOVING the book. Loving as in he begs for more and I'm loving it too & we read about 4 chapters a day.
Sometimes his sister pretends to read it too.
Besides reading, Will has always loved the theater. We've taken him to lots of musicals and he is completely enthralled with the theater. He has an incredible imagination and loves to play dress up and create scenes (usually involving a weapon of some sort) in our yard. Lately, he and our neighbors have been creating and performing plays for all of us to watch.
When my mom saw a call for open auditions at a local theater for The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe, I was in. I mentioned it to Will and he became ecstatic. So we started the book to become familiar with the characters.
Finally, it was audition day. I woke Will from his nap
fed him a quick dinner and we headed to auditions.
I stupidly told him maybe I would try out too. I stupidly told my husband maybe I would try out for the evil White Witch. My husband thought I had a decent chance.
But, then, I totally, chickened out. I haven't acted since middle school!
Then I felt so convicted because oh my goodness, this kid was being so brave to walk into this theater and try out in front of a director and audience.
So I filled out the paper. It asked for experience and I didn't think my acting experiences over 20 years ago really counted... so I just wrote that I'm a mom who plays a whole lot of pretend play.
I added a :). I'm sure that will go far for me.
Will signed his own name on his application:
And then we took our seats.
I was a nervous wreck.
But I practiced my acting skills and "acted" like I was cool.
Will was mostly excited.
Finally, we got our script for the reading. We were going to read the parts of Edmund and the White Witch.
I should note that the newspaper audition call mentioned that they were looking for people age 8 and up. Except that in the fine lines it mentioned that any age could try out for background parts.
So, I figured we were there for background parts. I like the background.
The background is comfortable and quieter and has less rehearsal nights.
But Will really wanted to try out for a real role.
And he was the youngest there by 3 years - not a single other person under age 8 showed up.
When it was our turn, he was so excited and had his hand in the air waiting to go on stage. I mentioned to the director the whole age thing and maybe we should just skip us & wait for the background character try outs at the end?
The director, however, suggested we go ahead and try out.
So I tried another attempt at getting out of this & explained that Will is a beginner reader & I wasn't sure he would be able to manage well doing an audition reading from a script. I asked if he just wanted us to wing it...
and the director said yes!
We were all given about 5 minutes to practice.
And then it was time.
Will & I made our way to the stage.
Each person had to state their name & age for the director.
Will said his name & that he is "5 1/2." The director cracked up at the "1/2." (Again - everyone else was 8+.)
I stated my name & "30 something."
Will, funny guy that he is, piped up loudly, "Actually, I think she is 32."
The White Witch might get you for that.
Ha ha ha. Everyone laughed.
And then we began. I read from the script and prompted him & Will just acted! He was great! He remembered things & made great facial expressions and really got excited about "Turkish Delights!"
When it was over, everyone clapped for him & the director said,
"Well, he may not have reading skills down but he has great memorization skills!"
(I asked Will how I did and he said I was great. But he also said he was trying to be "encouraging" so I'm not sure how honest that answer was!)
Shortly after that, I was asked by someone to consider letting him be in a commercial.
And then came background character time (at last.)
The kids went to the stage in groups of 3 and had to choose an animal to portray waking up, hunting, and sleeping.
Will was so excited and wildly waved his hand to be chosen.
He did a tiger.
He loved it. He loved being on stage. He loved acting and even though people were staring at him - they are supposed to when you are on stage! He loved pretending and having an audience to pretend in front of. He seemed to love making people laugh and I just watched as his whole face lit up last night...
kind of like this:
There's more auditions tonight and we will find out soon if we made it. If we make it at all, I'm assuming it would be for background characters (due to age and lack of experience) but I really think it was a great first audition experience and Will definitely wants to try out more for other civic theater programs.
We had a great time trying out and I was just so proud of Will for his courage - there were maybe 75 people and he never hesitated about going up on stage. He said his lines loudly and clearly and just wow! I could not believe how confident and mature he was!
It takes a lot of courage sometimes just to do life and to go out in public when you are constantly stared at, pointed at, etc...
I was so proud of my son for going up on a stage and trying out for something hard in front of lots of people.
Today, he came to me after nap time and told me he wanted to combine his two favorite things (for today, at least) - Narnia & cars.
So he basically created a Narnia scene in my dining room and assigned various cars to be characters. The White Witch was stationed in her castle and was technically a white truck. Aslan is the hummer - you can see him under the couch behind Will. He was "on the move." The cars in the middle are the children meeting with Mr. & Mrs. Beaver and discussing Aslan. I loved how he used his imagination!
(Sorry! Long post!!)
Finally, I remembered this morning a story I heard when I was pregnant with Will. At that time, my mom worked for Christian author & speaker, Dee Brestin. I went to one of Dee's speaking engagements to hang out with my mom and while there, I heard a story Dee shared of her daughter, Sally, who is an artist and felt compelled to paint Aslan as described by C.S. Lewis.
I recommend watching this video in which Sally explains her difficulty in capturing the paradox of Aslan - as Mr. Beaver explains, "'Safe? Who said anything about "safe?" ... Course he isn't safe. But he's good.'"
Finally, Sally finished the painting and felt she captured Aslan's "not safe" side but couldn't really convey the "good" part... until an elderly woman at the church she donated it to noticed something else in the background.
Do you see it?
Just to the right of Aslan's face, there appeared a lamb. Sally did not intentionally paint a lamb but suddenly realized that Aslan now fit the paradox she was trying to capture.
I've always loved that story and God's goodness yet "not safe" paradox has been especially significant to me in recent years. I love that I first saw that painting while pregnant with Will...
and that now Will was auditioning for a role in the Chronicles of Narnia.
So I found a cheap poster of the painting on Amazon and I'm so excited to hang it in Will's room - as a reminder of his incredible courage in trying out for a community play and also his outstanding courage in just doing life and facing what he faces every single day, wherever he goes.
I am so incredibly proud to be his mom and can not wait to see what God does with his life.
Will noticed a teenager trying out too for the show & told me he thought she was pretty.
When she auditioned, she announced her name & age as 15.
Will whispered to me, "I like 15 year olds, Mommy."
Later, he went to her and told her she was pretty.
Man, that is some confidence.
Aslan Photo source- Amazon.com - painting by Sally Brestin
click on photo for source