She’s Very Albino, Isn’t She?

November 8, 2009 albinism, Shirlee, Skin Conditions 11 Comments

Why, yes. Yes, she is.

Or should I have said, “What would make you say that?”

Or maybe, “And you’re very rude, aren’t you?”

Only the person who asked the question isn’t rude. She’s Sassy’s jazz teacher, and she’s a very nice person. So, imagine my surprise when I walked into the dance studio last weekend, and she looked at Cheeky (who she has seen many, many times in the past three months) and said, “She’s very albino, isn’t she?”

Three-hundred responses jumbled around in my head. The first….No, she’s not. She was born with albinism, and she’s very human and very beautiful. The last something along the lines of…..What would make you say such a rude and thoughtless thing?

Both girls were standing beside me, waiting for my response. Sassy looked like a deer in the headlights, her big blue eyes wide with surprise, and Cheeky was burrowing closer to my side (as she always does when people comment on her looks). So, I had to say something.

And what I really wanted to do was correct the terminology, remind the teacher that Cheeky was no different than anyone else, explain that it just isn’t PC to use “albino” to describe a person and, above all, tell her that Cheeky understood every word she was saying and that it really wasn’t very nice to point out other people’s differences.

But I held back because the girls were watching and because the world won’t always be kind. We all have to face thoughtless comments and rudeness at times, and it is our reactions and responses that make us strong. Being upset and unhappy and rude wouldn’t have accomplished anything, and (as I’ve said before) why should I be defensive about my sweet girl?


Finally, I smiled and put my hand on Cheeky’s white hair and said, “She’s very beautiful and very unique.”

And Sheri (who works in the office and has heard me field many questions about adoption and Cheeky) called out from her place at the desk, “She really is. All that gorgeous white hair and those beautiful blue eyes. Both your girls are gorgeous.”

And both my girls preened as the jazz teacher agreed that they were, indeed, stunning.

They are beautiful, my girls, but there is no denying Cheeky’s uniqueness. She is a white rose in a field of sunflowers. She is a single white cloud in an azure blue sky. She is the brightest of stars in the pitch-black night. People cannot help that their eyes are drawn to her.

She will learn how to respond to that by watching me. I am the mirror in which my daughter sees herself, and I am the person she looks to for reassurance when others try to define who she is by the way she looks. It is my privelege and my joy to guide her as she learns to embrace her God-given uniquness, and I pray each day for the ability to be as gracious as I want my Cheeky to be.

Some days, I think I am getting it just right.

Some days, I think I am failing abysmally.

Mostly, though, I simply acknowledge that I can only do my best.

That, I think, is all God asks of me.

– Shirlee

11 responses to “She’s Very Albino, Isn’t She?”

  1. *Kc* says:

    I had to comment on this post. Our youngest daughter has Albinism and we get those comments all the time.

    Even though our daughter's Albinism is not as obvious as yours, we still get the rude comments and looks. It bothers me to no end on somedays, but i'm learning to get 'em with kidnness. It's as if people don't realize how hurtful their comments can be, not only to mommy , but also the child. They don't know they are different and shouldn't be made to feel that way.

    The one we get most is "Oh wow. Look at that white hair!!" I want to say "Oh wow. Look at your brown hair?" But instead I say, "Yes she has the hair that most women pay lots of money for." =) I also hear this "Oh poor baby has to wear glasses." "Aw she is albino?" Ugh that bothers me more than most because it's as if they are labeling Albinism has her rather than her having this condition.

    Anyway, I could go on all day as you can tell. I just wanted to let you know you aren't alone. Our daughter is only one so we have just begun with this journey. Your daughter IS gorgeous!!

  2. Stefanie says:

    As a family that already feels conspicuous enough, we are preparing to bring home our first SN child with a physical difference. Thank you so much for sharing the struggle you endure daily to be the best mom you can be to Cheeky (who is positively stunning, btw!) it is a huge encouragement to me and I am sure to many others 🙂
    May I be the example of grace, kindness and strength that you are!

  3. The Gang's Momma says:

    Thank you for sharing this post. I love learning from other moms how to handle these difficult conversations. Our daughter's sn is less obvious until someone spies her ear (microtia). Then the questions start. I am working through responses similar to yours to train myself in an appropriate, measure response. I don't often think fast enough to do that. Then I babble – which frustrates me more than the other person's rudeness. Cuz then I share too much. This is a good alternative to consider 🙂

  4. Ladybugs' Mom says:

    What a beauty! She's stunning in that color too!!
    I like your response. I'm sure her teacher didn't mean anything by her remark but a nice compliment. Reminds me to think twice before I say something.
    -Mom to two little treasures from China

  5. carolyn says:

    I thought your post was beautiful, as is Cheeky and your love for your daughters!

  6. Ladyblog says:

    Great post! She is a very beautiful girl!

  7. The Sanders Family says:

    I happened upon your blog via a friend's blog, and I just had to comment on this post. Just this past week I was thinking about how our words effect others. I wrote about it on my blog ('s a couple of posts down if you want to check it out and it's called 'Encourage One Another.'

    Anyway, your girls ARE very beautiful, made in the image of our Maker! I thought your response to the teacher's words were perfect! What a great way to be an example of tact to that teacher, and to your girls!

    Glad I found your blog!

    In Him,
    Angie 🙂

  8. The Wanderers' Daughter says:

    She is gorgeous, and even moreso for her uniqueness. You were wise to let her take that blow, because there are so many uneducated people out there. And none of us are immune (that includes those of us who have no identifiable "conditions"). We need to have thick skins and strong souls. And from the looks of her, she will have that strong soul. What a ravishing beauty. And what a lovely post. Thank you.

  9. DramaCity says:

    Beautiful post.

  10. Jennifer says:

    i'm an 18 year old albino also in college, and oh yes people can be so rude i remember when i was little someone told my mother it was just awful that she died my brothers hair and mine white (he is also albino) i think that is the most rude comment we ever got, oh and also when i was little i had long white hair that people would come up and touch. So yes it can be a hard condition to handle sometimes, but i look at it as a gift. i could go on and on about this but i just wanted to let you know shes not alone, and she is very very beautiful. by the way my brother and i also have the same type of albinism as her.

  11. Shirlee McCoy says:

    Jennifer, thank you for sharing a little of your experience. I think of my daughter's albinism as a gift, too, and I hope that she will view it the same way.

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