What My Parents Told Me Whenever I Felt ‘Different’ From Other Kids
Like many children, I was bullied and teased throughout my school years. I was profoundly deaf in one ear, my legs twisted in instead of out, I had severe permanent skin depigmentation on my neck, chest and stomach, and I had to wear very strong glasses. Looking back, I also had sensory issues that probably would have been identified if I were a child today. Apparently, I was “different” from all the other kids, and they made sure to tell me about it.
But my parents worked hard to make sure I never felt “different.” The things that could have been considered impediments were just part of who I was. My parents constantly encouraged me that I will always have something worthwhile to offer, no matter what anyone else says — that everyone has a special gift or talent to share with the world. They inspired me to find the things I could do, instead of focusing on the things I couldn’t do.
My parents always encouraged me in whatever activities I wanted to undertake. I had a hard time running for any distance, but baseball became my passion from a young age. I would spend hours poring over statistic books and sports magazines and watching my favorite major league team play. I had difficulty with handwriting and anything that required fine motor skills, but I excelled in spelling, eventually reaching the state spelling bee twice. My single-sided deafness made it hard to play group games on the school playground because it was too noisy to hear, but in carving out a quiet place, I was able to have meaningful conversations with kids who would later become lifelong friends.
My parents told me I was enough, over and over, day after day, even when I didn’t feel like it. They made me feel like I was enough by always encouraging me to find my strengths and offering praise when I improved in any area I struggled in, however small the gain.
Fast-forward, I’m all grown up and now the mommy of a precious little boy who is profoundly deaf in both ears and also has severe sensory processing disorder. I desperately want to give him the same gift my parents gave me, the gift of enough. I want him to feel loved, talented, confident and full of worth. Even — no, especially — when he realizes that he may be a little “different,” too.
I want to help him find the things that he will excel in, the things that will bring him a sense of accomplishment, and help him focus on those while instilling in him the courage and tenacity to try to improve in the areas where he has challenges. He has so very much to offer this world, and I never want him to forget it just because his talents may look “different” from someone else’s.
Despite any limitations that seem to stand in our way, each one of us has some unique and special gift or talent to offer, no matter what anyone else says.
The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one unexpected source of comfort when it comes to your (or a loved one’s) disability and/or disease? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.