Oooh, I'm a little fired up emotionally right now. Allow me to vent?
So my kids and I are eating Chic-Fil-A with a friend and her daughter, when suddenly I hear the woman behind me explaining to her child very matter-of-factly,
"It's because she is sick. So we're not going to say anything else about it."
Obviously her kid was asking about my kid.
Now, normally in public settings, I see the stares, the second glances, and even the whispers, and I can assume what they're saying. But I gotta tell you, it's something else to actually hear it come out of someone's ignorant mouth.
In that millisecond of choosing my reaction, I'm torn. I felt my blood begin to boil, and everything in me wanted to turn around and interrupt this woman to say, "Um, excuse me. No, she's NOT sick. That's my daughter you're talking about."
But then I thought, Well, what would be so offensive about being sick anyways? There are tons of amazing, inspiring sick kids out there- why would I be offended for my kid to be mistakenly lumped in with them? Is there something inherently wrong IF she actually WERE a sick kid? Absolutely not.
But at the end of all that thinking is the honest truth... I don't want to be weak.
And I don't want people thinking bald always equals sick.
So I remained facing forwards, but had to stop the conversation with my friend to take a moment to process this.
Because the other half of me in that moment becomes very, very sad. Sad that my daughter will forever be so misunderstood. Forever be judged according to her appearance. She will forever be the object of stares and whispers, and sometimes I feel like I am the fish swimming upstream against a whole WORLD of a current to teach her not to give a rip about what people think.
But do you want to know what bothers me even more than the "she's sick" comment? I mean, before my daughter lost her hair, I had never HEARD of alopecia before, so I know this lady was answering the question in all sincerity.
It wasn't the ignorance of the "she's sick" comment. It was the terrible application of it:
She's sick. THEREFORE, don't. say. anything. else.
So here's how the logic goes...
A) Your child sees someone that's different and asks a question.
B) You will quickly and bluntly answer that question. BUT...
C) They may not speak about it again.
Ummm, not sure I agree with her parenting style there...
Because what she is subtly teaching her child is that differences in people are SHAMEFUL.
That people who are different should be ASHAMED.
That you cannot be comfortable and free around those who are different-
you must keep your thoughts to yourself and ignore the elephant in the room.
Dear woman, I couldn't disagree with you more.
Because what results of your logic is that your little girl will carry with her a sense that DIFFERENT = bad. She will only be able to be "free" around those who are just like her. She'll only look to have friendships with those who she perceives to be the same as her. Or she'll have to enter into relationships with those who are not the same with an air of fakeness because she's been taught to ignore a huge part of people's identity.
Can we please, PLEASE teach our children (and our own hearts) to REJOICE in differences instead?
When your child sees my child's bald head and asks about it, can you pleeeeease instead say something along the lines of, "You know? I don't know for sure. Maybe it's because she's sick and she's taking medicine that makes her hair fall out. We can go talk to her and find out."
(What you're really saying is, "Yep, it's NORMAL for people to be different. And there are reasons for it. And it's okay to talk about it.")
OR "Isn't she pretty? Isn't it neat how you don't have to have hair to be beautiful?"
OR "You know how everybody's got something? Like you have ____ (insert your child's difference here)__, and she just doesn't have hair!"
We will do our children a disservice in this world if we hush-hush their naturally curious observations about differences.
When your young child notices my son's dark skin, will you hush them?
Or will you REJOICE in how God gave him the most beautiful chocolate skin?
Is race and culture something we should keep quiet about, or something that reflects the image of God and how He created humanity?
Will you use that opportunity with your child to STOP the conversation, and make them feel as if they've said something wrong or inappropriate? Or will you seek to teach and train?
Sure, my children are different.
But so are yours.
It's okay to be different, and it's also okay to talk about it, too.
What messages, dear parent, are you sending in your silence?