We all do it. Right? We all have this odd tug of fear when it comes to things we don’t understand. We all have this little twinge of fear that erupts when a situation presents itself that is quite far outside of our “norm.” I’ve seen it happen many times. I’ve witnessed people stumble over their words. I’ve stood there with my eyes involuntarily blinking slowly waiting for someone to rephrase the sentence which just left their mouth. (The most notable situation coming to mind being when the ENT asked what Alyssa’s life expectancy was.) We’ve all seen it and truth be told… we’ve all done it. We’ve all, at some time or another, jumped to conclusions about a situation which we don’t fully understand. We’ve placed our own “rules” on the lives of another. We’ve assumed because something was done a way we wouldn’t do it that it was most likely done “wrong.”
I think judgment is a place where we get this glorious “free pass” in the parenting department. I’d like to think that I’d raise neuro-typical kids to be free from judgment and accept those around them without a second thought. However, I’m also aware that Neil and I are not the only influences that our child(ren) would have. I’d be battling against a world that is hell-bent on being divided. A world where people are still separated based on religion, race, sexual orientation, etc… as much as we try as a culture to deny it. It happense every.single.day. Neil and I would be fighting a battle of raising a sweet girl to love people as they are and not love them simply if they live up to what she wants them to be. Instead, we were blessed with this beautiful little girl who loves loving people regardless of their life situation, and that is without any education or influence from us. Certainly she judges character but she does so on an energetic level. She does so based on how people treat her. It will forever amaze me how she reacts to strangers. I can tell you the people who are putting on a front about being “accepting” and the people who are truly talking to Alyssa as they would any other child. She can tell you that too. I’ve seen her smile her biggest smile at a homeless man on the side of the street and I’ve seen her shriek in fear at a seemingly “kind” well dressed stranger at the market. For her it’s about being able to sense that twinge of fear that someone has when they experience a special needs kiddo up close either for the first time… or for the first time they feel comfortable enough to approach.
That’s the thing about Alyssa. She’s approachable. She’s this happy little lady who spends the better part of her time squealing with delight. I remember when her skin was really bad as a baby people would see her beaming little face and then get a bit of fear about her skin. Now they just ask general questions. Some keep upbeat and some get this “Oh, that poor girl.” feeling about them… for about a second. She doesn’t allow for it. Alyssa has never known life differently and she is honest to goodness happy to be exactly who she is. The fact of the matter is I really truly don’t mind answering questions… as long as the questions are coming from a place of wanting a better understanding. Truth be told I usually have a hard time not dumping her entire story on a stranger. HA! It’s not that I don’t want people to know… it’s that I want to explain it to a point that they’ll understand… and sometimes I don’t think that is possible. I want them to leave that little twinge of fear. I want them to get that parenting is not all that different for me than it is for them. Certainly there are people in my life who understand at least most of what we are going through. Then, there is this spectrum of people from those who just completely don’t understand (and are completely unwilling to take the time to try) to those who have let go of the fear and worry and grasped on to the fact that our life as a family is not all that different from that of any one else.
Of course there are people scattered all over the spectrum along the way. Typically what sets them apart… is knowledge. It’s the taking the time to learn and to at least try to wrap their brain around something that is outside of them. Learning about a situation that they may never live through but reaching this point of understanding that just because it isn’t the way they live life… it isn’t actually all that different. It can be said for so many things besides special needs parenting: adoptive parenting, foster parenting, step-parenting, same-sex couple adoption, same-sex couples child-bearing, people deciding not to parent, etc etc. The list goes on and on and of course encompasses far more than parenting. It’s the fear of the unknown, the fear of the different, and the fear of how everyone else will react if one person in a group decides to accept and welcome someone who, at least on the surface, is different.
The easiest way to dispel all of those fears?? Learn. Take the time to step outside of yourself and your own situation. Learn. Take the time to realize that as different as people appear at first glance they are all quite similar. At the end of the day each of us wants to be loved beyond measure, accepted for exactly who we are, and surrounded by people who do both of those things. We all have the same basic needs of food, shelter, and water… even if how we have those needs met may vary greatly. It’s easy to see someone living a life far different from our own and say “Oh. They are weird.” or “Ugh. That’s just plain gross.” or anything else that denotes we’ve chosen the better path. The reality of the situation is… none of us know what the best path is for anyone else. What I do know is that each of our paths would be easier to walk if instead of jumping to the conclusion that someone’s life is weird or gross, we took the time to get to the foundation and see that we are all just doing our best to live life as happily as possible. Gosh how much easier would it be to be happy if each of us was accepted for who we are instead of being persecuted for not being exactly what someone wants us to be. After all, there are a LOT of “someones” in this world, and each of them has a different opinion. You are never going to manage to fill the mold that each of them has for what a perfect person should be. So, you might as well be yourself and only walk the path with those who take the time to learn and see that you are worth walking beside… no matter how similar or dissimilar the two of you may be. At the end of the day, you’ll be better for it… and so will they! That’s a promise! ❤