We were in the waiting room at our kids’ new pediatrician’s office when another little boy saw my daughter’s limb difference and ran away to his mom because Lydia’s limb difference scared him.
Five minutes later, a little girl ran up to Lydia and Barrett, and with a grotesque look on her face said, “What is wrong with you?”
Lydia smiled, “This is my lucky fin. I was born this way. I think it is awesome. Do you want to play? Let’s be friends.”
“No, your arm is gross! What happened to your brother?”
“It is NOT gross. That’s not kind to say. Barrett FanFan has two lucky fins! He was born this way too. We are like Nemo and we love our lucky fins. Come slide with us.” Instead of playing on the slide, the little girl ran to her mom as a safe retreat.
Though moments like these are hard to witness and make my heart sink, it also gives me so much pride that my four-year old daughter handled a hurtful situation with confidence, assertiveness, and kindness.
Lydia has often said the hardest part about having a limb difference is not the limb difference itself, but it is the way people treat her at times.
One of the lessons I often repeat to my daughter and son is that sometimes little people and big people are scared of differences, and that they might be the first to teach someone that even though we are different, we can still be friends. Though I hate that this “burden” is on them at three and four years old, I see that Lydia is beginning to use this opportunity to make this world better and she tries to be an includer. “Come play with me,” she says. I know she is choosing kindness when it would be easier not to.
As I have reflected on teaching my kids to be kind to those who are different, I have been convicted of how I carry this out in my own life. I have realized it is easy to be kind to people who think like me, look like me, and agree with me.
Because this situation at the pediatrician’s office happened during such a politically divisive time in our country, it has really challenged me to reflect:
How am I modeling kindness in my own life?
How do I treat people who think differently?
Where am I putting up healthy personal boundaries vs. walls in relationships? Personal boundaries are healthy, but walls in relationships aren’t.
Am I willing to hear a diversity of ideas that contradict my own? Or, do I mainly communicate with people who think like me, look like me, and are like me?
Am I willing to step out of my bubble? Or, am I making my bubble look more like me?
When someone posts something online and I am tempted to comment, am I operating from a place that remembers the preciousness of each person, especially when I disagree with them? Or, am I operating out of a place of superiority?
Am I treating someone the way that I would want to be treated or want my daughter and son to be treated?
I have been pushing myself to model kindness and disagreement in front of my kids, and this is not easy.
“Lydia, I disagree with you, but I adore you. We are okay even though we disagree.”
“Lydia and Barrett, I disagree with this news commentator’s ideas, but let’s practice listening.”
When I was early in my twenties, my husband did something that ticked me off. I remember venting to my mentor about this situation, and my mentor slowly nodded his head and said, “Hmmmmm. I understand why you are frustrated.” We sat there in awkward silence.
“Mandy,” he said authoritatively in his deep southern accent. “Yes, Dr. Chewning,” I replied nervously.
“Do you think you annoy people?”
Yes, of course.
“Do you think you tick people off?”
Yes, of course.
“Is it hard to love you sometimes?”
“Do you make mistakes?”
Every stinking day.
“Is Jesus’ love for you dependent on how easy it is to love you?”
“Every time Bryson annoys you and ticks you off, before you ever respond to him, I want you to pray, ‘Jesus, thank you for giving me the opportunity to be more like you.’ When you pray this, do not think that in a condescending way, but in a manner that refines you and makes you more reflective of Him. See each annoyance and frustration as a gift.”
As I have scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, I have been overwhelmed by the divisiveness and the lack of kindness that all of us, myself included, are modeling to the little people who observe and learn from us.
May we push ourselves to practice kindness as we communicate our diverse and often conflicting ideas. May we remember each person’s preciousness as we challenge, disagree, and communicate ideas that are important us. We are okay even though we disagree. I think we can engage in hard conversations and still be friends.
I am so thankful for my daughter, the teacher.