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What I Will Tell My Daughter When She Asks Me, ‘Am I Different?’

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Today I had a blast watching my 22-month-old daughter during her weekly swimming lessons. She loves the water and enjoys her time in the pool. For one exercise, the instructors had the kids crawl/walk across a floaty and dive into their parents’ arms. The only problem with this is my daughter can’t really crawl or walk yet. She has special needs and has low muscle tone and is developmentally delayed. She had to sit on the edge of the floaty and then fall in my wife’s arms. This made me think about “the talk” I will eventually have to have with her as well as others.

Every parent to some extent dreads certain conversations with their child. There are the ones that start with questions that make you cringe like, “Where do babies come from?” I admit I am dreading those types of chats as well. However, I am more fearful of the other “talk” after my daughter asks me, “Am I different?” It’s a fair and valid question and one that deserves a fair and valid response. Here is what I would tell my daughter and every child or person who asks about her.

Yes, you are different…but everybody is different. Every single one of us is different from the other, and it’s a wonderful thing. If we were all the same, the world would be a boring place. You should never be ashamed of these differences. They don’t make you less of a person and they don’t make you better than someone else. All of these differences make you who you are, and you are an amazing person.

While you can’t do certain things like other kids your age, it doesn’t mean anything. Not every person can do the same thing as the other. This is why you have certain people who are doctors and others who are athletes and others who are painters and on and on. I am very different from your mother, your uncles, your aunts or your grandparents. In fact, I have been called weird before and I take it as a compliment. I think my differences make me creative and personable. We all have our abilities and gifts and you do, too.

When people ask why you are different, I want you to tell them the truth. You tell them it’s due to the way you are and you may not be able to walk the way others do. Or you may not be able to talk the way they talk or process things as quickly. You tell them there is nothing wrong with you, you just do things differently, and that’s OK. It’s important you tell them this because you should never be ashamed of who you are and what you can accomplish.

And finally, the people who really listen to you and understand you won’t care about your differences. They will accept you for who you are because, again, everyone is different. The ones who don’t and choose to focus on people’s differences in a negative way, you let them go on thinking whatever they want to think. Their opinion doesn’t matter and won’t change anything about you or others.

This is how “the talk” will go with my daughter. Of course, it will be followed by a big hug.

During the floaty exercise, my daughter laughed and was excited for the other kids and my wife cheered them on. Then when my daughter sat on the floaty for her turn, the other kids were excited as well and their parents cheered, too. This reminded me that while my daughter is different (just like everyone in this world), she can still be happy and enjoy these types of activities with her peers. And isn’t that what every parent wants for their child — to be happy? I guess we’re all the same when it comes to that.

Chris Rios the mighty.2-001

Follow this journey on Team Bex.

Originally published: September 10, 2015
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