Monday, June 27, 2011

Finding Perfection at the Mall

As my oldest child, Emma, grows she is becoming more aware of the culture and things around her, such as girls on television that look a certain way, commercials that advertise sparkly shoes, and the language she hears from peers.  I worry about how this is affecting her perceptions of not only the world, but also of people who may be seen as "different". People like her baby sister.

Today, I had a chance to see how Emma's perceptions are developing. While out shopping at our local mall, we saw a young girl with cerebral palsy in a wheel chair.
After watching her for a few minutes, Emma turned to me and asked "Mommy, why does that little girl look so weird?"
The only thing I could think to say was that she was not weird. She was PERFECT. She was exactly as she was created. After a few minutes of talking about how it is not okay to say anyone looks weird because we are all different, I think maybe she least until next time.
You see this wasn't the first time this has been discussed with her. When around someone that may not be viewed as "typical" I firmly believe in answering questions about appearance or actions verses telling children to look away. Most of us with "special" kiddos also follow this practice and I hope one day the general "typical" population will also.
If a five year old in all her honesty and innocence (combined with the influence of television I am sure) is already beginning to make judgments about others, what hope is there for Eslea? Eslea is only nine months old and I find my heart breaking when someone uses the r-word anywhere around me. What about the day five years from now when Eslea knows what the word "weird" means? Or "different"? Or "ugly"?

I don't know how it will effect Eslea and most days I do not think about it at all...pushing it to the back of my mind where it waits patiently to thrust itself to the front again when given the opportunity.
Instead I am spending time focusing on what I can do today. What I can teach Emma. What I can teach the students I see at work. What I can teach our family and friends....about perfection.

Perfection. It comes in all sizes and shapes. To say that no one is perfect is just not true. We are born perfect and only after the influence of outside influences do we stray so far from that perfection. Starting even as early as age five....

I know I'm not the only one faced with this challenge of what to say to our kids so they understand that it's okay to be different. Enlighten me my friends. You know I love your words of wisdom.

Before you ask, yes, the song is Selena Gomez's Who Says. I don't care...I like the song. Plus, it's PERFECT for this post. Thank you very much.

Now, Monday is over people. See you on Tuesday.



  1. Wish I had a suggestion, but I just wanted to say that I think your response to your daughter was perfect too. It's so hard not to feel pain at the thought of our children being talked about. It's a real fear. Thank you for writing about it so well.

  2. Eslea reminds me so much of j!

    I also love that song. I thought of j the first time I heard it. And I so my listen to that kind of music. Lol.

    As for the rest, I have no wisdom to share. :( but I'm looking forward to ehatothers have to say.

  3. I really would love for us to get together this summer sometime because I feel like we have so much to share. I remember having those same thoughts ten years ago, and I just want you to know you're doing everything right, and it's going to be mostly fine. With guidance like you're already giving Emma, these little siblings grow up understanding that everyone is unique with their own challenges and strengths that make them wonderful and individual. Because of Eslea, Emma will have an uncommon appreciation for diversity; understand what acceptance means at its core; and she'll be fiercely protective. Emma will do wonderful things like write essays about her sister that get published on the school news and talk about how she wants a job helping people, like the therapists who work with Eslea. But there will be painful moments every now and then like when Andy came home crying because he had fixed a picnic for the girls next door, and they wouldn't answer the door for him and teased him--and Kate stood by and let it happen. But, that pain transformed into a teaching moment for all the kids after a conversation with Kate and a picnic with everyone. So, my recommendation is keep up the good work--acknowledge the differences but then point out how we all have differences and similarities that make us wonderful and unique. It will take many of those conversations over time, but she'll get it and she'll end up being an advocate not only for Eslea but all of those other kids at the mall too.

  4. This is so tough. Kids pose such tough questions and comments and I think just speaking simply from the heart is all we need to do. Like you said, she is perfect and that is that. I really hope that is enough anyways. I know I've stumbled and hope I am doing enough. You are. Eslea will always be there silently sending the message as well.

  5. I too struggle at times finding the right way to say things or teach my kids...But you said it perfectly! I remind the kids how boring this world would be if we were all the same. Being different isn't something to be scared of, it is to be celebrated. Everyone has worth.
    I love the song too!

  6. I am very honest with Max about "differences" in people...I even point things out in a positive way to facilitate talking points with him...I am hoping that he will pick up on this and practice it for life...he believes Maddie is the prettiest girl on earth...and that is how we want to keep it!! I stopped reading Cosmo when I had Max...the pressures became to din general what little girls think they should become is scary...not a fan of the media...but need to learn how to function in it! I do not think of this topic in regards to Maddie and the is to much for me at this time...great post...and even better pix! smiles