I will never forget the day that I picked up my very perceptive 3-year old daughter from preschool and she said a combination of words that stopped me dead in my tracks.
“Mommy, why am I different than the other kids?”
I looked back in the rear view mirror and saw tears streaming down her little face. I had to pull over in that moment. I momentarily felt verbally paralyzed and wanted to cry myself. I asked her to clarify to make sure we were talking about the same thing before I responded. I know people say that kids are little, resilient, and not aware, but I disagree. By a very young age I had noticed that my child had already gravitated towards babies that were not as mobile and didn’t even try to keep up with the kids her age. I think at the time she knew her physical abilities and leaned towards those that she could keep up with.
Over time the questions have increased and gotten harder. I do my best to give age appropriate explanations about the challenges that we all face in our house. I know that one day I will need to give more, and maybe that day won’t be as hard as I worry it will be. I just know how cruel the world can be. As a parent, while all people are unique and possess different strengths, telling your child that they are “different, yet not less” is a unique moment. It needs to be handled with care and tact. While I know that day is approaching and I do not know exactly what I will say, here are the top 3 things that I won’t:
1. A Diagnosis Defines You
A medical diagnosis is merely a set of words. It should never be used for society to set limits upon others, or for individuals to set limits upon themselves. Always strive to go beyond and soar through the sky that people thought you could never reach.
2. Different Means Less
In our home we live loud and proud about the strengths we all possess and the struggles we all face. Life is not easy, but it gets easier if you have confidence in yourself. Everyone has struggles and while they may not be the same and some may want you to think they are perfect, nobody is. We are all different and beautiful in our own right. Never treat anyone that is different from you as less-than, and always expect the same treatment in return.
3. It Was Hard On Me
I have to think long and hard every time I write a blog. While parenting can be difficult to start with, adding in some of these extra worries, specialists, therapies, and daily struggles can at times make this feeling seem elevated. However, in no way would I trade it for the world. I always tell people therapy is our sport and smile. Those who know me get it. One day I was with a friend talking about how I can at times struggle juggling everything. He told me “you’re right, not everyone has to do that, but not everyone gets to either.” I will never forget it, because it was so beautifully put and true. It has and will always be an honor to have helped my kids take on challenges, and celebrate like there is no tomorrow when they conquer them. This is exactly what I will want them to know.
I don’t know everything but I will be open and honest with my children, even if that means having some tough conversations or moments. I will tell them about the struggles I face living with an autoimmune disease and all that I need to alter in order to reach my goals. While it may not be the exact same thing and I do not know exactly what I will say one day, today and always I will let them see that I too am an overcomer. I too have faced struggles, beaten the odds, and I will face many more. Perfect doesn’t exist, but awesome does, and that is exactly what we all are!
By Jessica Nieminski
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