At church Wednesday night, there was an argument between several girls and my older daughter. I was home sick with a migraine, and I heard about the problem Saturday morning while driving to a meeting with the pastor’s wife. Hearing about Sassy squabbling with an entire group of girls over rules to a game they’d made up wasn’t the way I wanted to start my day. But hear about it I did, and I returned home an hour later with my patience worn thin and the desire for an explanation simmering in my gut.
I barely managed to keep the anger out of my voice as I asked Sassy to tell me about the problem. Sassy is, after all, sassy. She tends to speak first and think later. She has quick-fire responses to everything, and she isn’t one to let an affront (perceived or real) go unchallenged.
In a nutshell, I believed that the problem and the resulting argument was her fault, but I wanted to give her a chance to prove me wrong.
To my chagrin, she did.
You see, the argument was about Cheeky.
There is a wonderful little group of eleven and twelve-year-old girls who have taken Cheeky under their wings. They adore her, and I appreciate the sweet attention they send her way.
Wednesday night, those girls decided that the rules of the game they were playing needed to be adapted to suit Cheeky’s visual impairment. They outlined the new rules, and Sassy went along with them until they decided that no one could toss a ball to Cheeky. The ball had to be walked to her and then handed over.
Sassy wasn’t keen on this idea. “We can toss the ball to her,” she said.
“No. She can’t see it,” was the response.
“She can see it fine. Just throw it gently,” my daughter replied.
And that’s when things heated up. Sassy, according to these sweet young girls, was mean to not consider Cheeky’s special need.
I asked my daughter what her response to that was, and she said, “I told them that Cheeky isn’t any different than any other kid. That she wants to play the game the same we do and that she doesn’t want people always talking about how she’s different. Just because her eyes aren’t so good doesn’t mean she’s different.”
And I could see the tears in my daughter’s eyes. She was angry and hurt and confused about all the extra care and attention paid to her little sister.
You see, we don’t treat Cheeky differently at home. Everything the other kids do, she does. She jumps, climbs, runs. She plays ball, tennis, badminton (albiet poorly). She does chores and is expected to do them well. There are points when we must consider her visual impairment, but we never make a big deal out of it. We expect that she will be able to achieve anything any other child can achieve, and Sassy knows it.
As I looked into my oldest daughter’s eyes, I felt two things- pride in her ability to let everyone know that Cheeky isn’t so different and relief that we’d discussed Cheeky’s SN and people’s responses to it with our older kids long before we brought her home.
Adoption, you see, is not only about the bond between parents and child. When there are other children in the home, it is as much about the bond between siblings. Bringing home a child with a very noticeable special need puts the entire family in the spotlight. It isn’t only Cheeky who is impacted by the stares and comments of others. It is all my children. Before Cheeky entered the home, I talked to the other kids about the questions they might be asked. We role played different scenarios and practiced responses to comments and questions. I wasn’t sure until this week that the things we talked about and the plans we made had sunk into my children’s brains.
But they had.
And Sassy was prepared to stand up for her sister’s right to be treated just like anyone else. She was prepared to be labeled mean in order to give her sister the chance to be labeled normal. She was prepared to argue her sister’s right to be seen as typical rather than different. At just a week past her ninth birthday, Sassy handled a difficult situation with courage and passion.
She has learned what many never do – that physical differences don’t limit a person’s ability to achieve great things.
And I have seen once again how knowing and loving Cheeky has changed us all for the better.