Not So Different

February 21, 2010 albinism, older child adoption, siblings, Skin Conditions, visible special need 16 Comments

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.

– Shirlee

16 responses to “Not So Different”

  1. Sarah says:

    Wow, what a great story! I'm love that the girls at church wanted to "help" Cheeky and that Sassy wanted to make sure she felt normal. Cheeky is certainly well loved and accepted! Thank you for sharing with us. It helps me to think things through a little deeper. Your girls are beautiful!
    God's blessings,
    Sarah ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. Tara Anderson says:

    I've got tears!!! How beautiful to see the relationship that has been forged between your daughters…the precious bonds of sisterhood! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Tara Anderson says:

    I just realized that I should probably elaborate on my previous comment since you're not familiar with my background. My younger sister has Cerebral Palsy, and growing up I found myself in your Sassy's shoes on more than one occasion. I didn't care what it cost me…I wasn't going to let my sister be labeled or treated differently because of her condition. There is a very high level of unconditional, self-sacrificing love that comes with your Sassy's defense of Cheeky and having felt it myself I know what an incredible thing it is! And I love seeing that your girls are developing the same type of relationship!

  4. Kris says:

    absolutely BRILLIANT post. i don't know what else i can say… except maybe that your daughter's are both amazing, and absolutely beautiful.

  5. Shonni says:

    What A BEAUTIFUL story and what a precious sister!

  6. Eileen says:

    What beautiful girls you have. You must be very proud!

  7. Ellie says:

    What amazing and beautiful daughters you have. What a sweet sister story ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Shirlee McCoy says:

    I was worried about how Sassy would do with a sister so close to her age (they are only a year and a month apart). She was the only girl and the youngest before her sister came along. Over the past eight months, she's proven to be compassionate, empathetic and accepting. Cheeky is adaptable and resilient. She loves everyone. And, of course, both girls LOVE fashion and dance and singing. They are an unstoppable team, and it does a mother's heart good to see it!

  9. Shannon says:

    Shirley!!!! Way to go Sassy! That story is SO beautiful and it such a portrait of true love. You are right on the money that our kids do not want to be treated any differently. So glad you captured that!

  10. Chris says:

    Both your girls are wonderful!!!
    Nothing is like a big sister standing up for a little sister….that is love in action!!!

    Thanks for sharing!!

  11. Stefanie says:

    What a wonderful reminder that the things we do to get our kiddos for a new sibling really can be worth all the effort… sounds like your kiddos really were well prepared!
    Such a sweet sister story, it sounds like Sassy and Cheeky are a blessing to each other ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Leah W says:

    that is awesome. i hope she always stands up for what is right!

  13. Jodi Sue says:

    I love this story!

  14. The Gang's Momma! says:

    LOVE this story. I have so loved watching what God is doing in the hearts of my children as they learn to be big sister and big brothers to a toddler with a need. While Li'l Empress's need isn't as obvious as Cheeky's, I've been soooo blessed to see how the Lord has tenderized their hearts and made them more "aware" of her and of others who are different. But the same. Thanks for sharing this!

  15. Michelle says:

    Once again, a wonderful story!!

  16. Sarah says:

    Iโ€™m so glad that she is doing well. Iโ€™m Cheekyโ€™s foster sister. I just found this article and it is inspiring!

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