The other night I started reading Superfudge by Judy Blume to Sweetie as her bedtime book. But as soon as I started reading, I saw evidence of a Big Question that was going to be asked by little Fudge.
Where do babies come from?
I actually stopped reading and asked Sweetie if she was sure she wanted to pick this book for me to read. After all, it's really for kids a bit older - like 4th or 5th grade. Maybe she'd prefer to read it on her own when she was older.
"No, I want you to read it now. And maybe by the time I'm older, I'll have forgotten it and I can read it on my own then too."
Okay. Here we go...
But, unlike Fudge's question to his parents, Sweetie asked me nothing. Okay, then. Good.
...Until Daddy read the second chapter to her last night. HE got "the question." And HE gave her silly answers. Answers she knew were too silly to be correct. Apparently, she wouldn't give up, but Daddy just told her he'd keep on giving her silly answers, so just stop asking.
Hmph... if it were me, I would have given her my most appropriate response for her age and her specific question. Or at least, that's what I'd like to have thought I'd done.
So today I've been prepping myself. Researching what to say to a child of her age when she asks the Big Question. I think I'm prepared now. IF she asks again.... Heaven knows I'm not going to bring up the subject myself quite yet!
But beyond this classic Big Question that all parents must forge their way through in one way or another, I know that Sweetie will surely be asked some pretty Big Questions herself about another topic... Me.
Questions from her peers about why her mom walks funny. Why does she wears those things on her legs. Why does she use a stick to help her walk.
And maybe - we told Sweetie recently when we were having a family discussion about bullies - these questions would be asked in a mean way by kids who were trying to pick on her for having a mom like me.
(To which Sweetie looked incredulously at me, with a heartfelt, "But why?! Just because someone needs to wear braces on their legs doesn't mean they're not a nice person or a good mom! Maybe they will grow up and have to wear braces on their legs! They shouldn't pick on you! That's not nice!"... That's my girl!)
Now, it's not like Sweetie hasn't dealt with this already - or like I haven't written about this already. In fact, I clearly remember picking her up from preschool one day when the kids crowded around me and started - innocently, but curiously - asking me questions. To which Sweetie quickly piped up and started giving her matter of fact answer that these extra things I have help me walk because my legs aren't as strong as everyone else's.
But now, it's just that the older she gets, the much more likely it is - I feel - that she will start to feel the effects, negatively, of having a disabled mom. At least as far as peer relations go.
As far as Sweetie herself goes, I know her to be a strong, independent, creative kid who really couldn't give a hoot about fitting in with the "in" kids or doing something with her classmates just because "everyone else" is doing it. In fact, that's something both her kindergarten and 1st grade teachers have pointed out to us. Sweetie doesn't really have any close friends in her class.... she much prefers to choose an activity to get involved in purely based on the activity itself, not because of which other kids are involved in said activity.
"Oh, playing tag looks like fun! Jimmy, Jon and Jen are playing tag? Okay! I'll play that with them!"
So if Sweetie happens to be picked on for some issue solely concerning herself... her lack of a best friend, her always wanting to play Super (Sweetie), her love of the colors pink & green - whatever! - I'm pretty confident that she'll take it in stride and not let it get her down. At least not too much, that is.
But when it comes to being picked on because of someone else related to her - especially her mom! - well, I just don't know if that will roll off her back so easily.
Her very reaction to my suggestion that such a thing may happen proved to me A) how outlandish she knows it is to pick on anyone just because they're different, and B) that it really is hurtful to hear others making fun of someone you love.
Who knows... for now she may still be just fine. After all, she's still pretty young and she's been with this same group of kids since she started school (granted, that's only 2 years now.) From my personal experience growing up, I know I felt comfortable - albeit pretty dang shy nonetheless - from kindergarten to 4th grade because I started off with that group of kids and they got to know me well enough and look past my disability. It wasn't until moving to a new state and new group of classmates in 5th grade that I became ultra shy and feeling much, much more different than everyone else around me. Likewise with Sweetie - hopefully the kids she's with now, who are the only kids she's been with, do and will continue to accept her for the awesome, independent, great kid she is and not think twice about painting her in a different light just because her mom is "so different."
But we will be moving again. Probably next summer. Possibly later. But we will move. In fact, I'm not thrilled with what I've heard about her school in terms of the older elementary grades, and certainly not the middle/high school. Hubby and I want to get her out of this school before too long. So inevitably, she will be faced with all new faces. Friends, bullies and peers.
I'm not looking forward to the day Sweetie comes home crying for any reason that another kid would intend to make her upset. Whether it's within the first few weeks of 2nd grade, or the last weeks of senior year in high school. To have your child so hurt by someone else's words and/or actions - well, I know it's going to hurt me just as much as it hurts her.
We don't want to force the issue now. But we want her to be aware, too. And we definitely want her to know that, no matter what, both Daddy and I are here for her to talk to anytime about anything. If she's doing great at school and making friends and having fun, great! Tell us about it! If she talks back to a bully who's trying to hurt someone else's feelings - and it works to shut the bully up! - let us know! We're proud of her for sticking up for someone else (even if it doesn't work and possibly gets herself in some trouble.) And if a bully tries to pick on her for any reason at all - including the sole reason of having such a different mom - then we need to hear about that as well.
No matter what, together we can talk things out, and sort out feelings and answers to big, difficult questions and situations. Together, we can help each other through anything.
May you always keep strong, Sweetie. May our communication paths always remain open. And may the Big Questions of life dwindle in size and scariness when worked out together in love.