Monday, January 11, 2016

Putting it Out There

Yesterday we joined some friends at a local burger place that has an outdoor play area for the kids. It was a decent day, the food was great, and the company better. One of the kids we were with adores Johnny and takes him off to play with him any chance she gets. I love her heart for him. As we supervised from across the lawn, we took notice of the other kids running around and all took turns counting to make sure everyone was accounted for. After some time, MacKenzie came over to me and said that a pair of older boys (9 or 10 years old) said that "Johnny walked funny". 

It's a first. 

Our first of many. 

Things have been said off hand to me, by adults. But this was the first time the girls heard a comment made by someone young. It will happen again. It will happen to our faces. It will happen behind our backs. It will be innocent comments like this one. It will also be not so nice insults. 

Honestly, I'm surprised it took this long for our first comment like this. And I'm thankful for such an easy comment to work our way into. I pass no judgement on the boys. I wasn't there to hear what they had to say, how it was said, nor did I know what they meant. And, like I told MacKenzie, Johnny DOES walk funny. Because he is learning how to walk and he is unstable. Are there different ways the boys could have worded that comment to be kinder? Yes. But, I don't think it was a taunt. Not this time. 

I'm thankful because my girl knew enough in her heart that, what those boys said didn't sit right with her and she made the decision to come tell me. We had a conversation about it being ok to observe differences between people, but ensuring that we are being kind about it. We discussed that she did the right thing, listening to her heart to come tell me, and that there will be times I ask her not to worry about it, times that I address it between the two of us, and other times that I talk to the others directly. I am thankful because we are equipping our kids with language that allows them to ask genuine questions out of a thirst for knowledge and encourages them to voice their concerns over injustices (both legitimate and embellished) that they observe. 

I was caught off guard by the whole interaction, not expecting, as I stuffed my face with burger and brisket cheese fries to deal with a milestone of a different kind. But I wasn't sad or upset about what happened. Look at all the victories. The reason the boys even noticed that Johnny was walking funny is because he was trying to walk. The reason he was trying to walk was to play on a typical playground. The reason he was out on the playground was to keep up with friends who adore him and beg me to let him play. The reason we were out to lunch was to spend time with friends who are (along with countless others) walking this journey right alongside us. How could I be upset?

But the biggest part of that, is the fact that he was in a place where he could be observed and interacted with. We put him out there, exposing him to the world, waiting to see what he would do, wanting him to experience as typical of a day as possible. It's a fantastic thing! And part of putting him out there is risking that he may get hurt. He may fall. He may eat dirt. He may struggle. He may fail. He may be "made fun of". For our family, that is part of growing and learning. I would never shy away from a chance for him. Does he need support and modifications sometimes? Absolutely. But there are times when he needs to experience a struggle or hardship for himself. For every offhand comment that is made towards him, there is a chance for an older sister to mature and learn. For every fall, there were stairs or ladders that were conquered. For every fail, there are days of marked progress, small progress, or even just a single step in the right direction. 

I refuse to build castle walls and dig moats around my kids to protect them from the world that exists out there. Instead I work to equip them with the tools they need- strength, courage, bravery, understanding, and communication. I make sure they know they are loved and cherished and send them on their way. 

This was the first of many. There will be harder ones to come. I'm praying for each moment that comes our way. I'm praising God for the great moments we've already had and the many more I know are in store. 

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