As a Mom I think it’s only natural to worry about the well-being of my children, but I often find myself worrying and fretting over things that, one day, I probably won’t have much control over.
Namely… bullying and intolerance.
I worry about Peanut. I worry about Buddy and Bear too, but let’s be honest… many kids don’t tolerate things they don’t understand. Peanut will be in a wheelchair. She will never be able to move her legs to run and play with her peers. Because of that she will be labeled as different by many of her peers.
I am constantly thinking about this. Will her peers play games that she can be involved in or will they reject her? Will her peers accept her differences or will they point them out as flaws and reject her? Will her peers be able to look past her wheelchair and see that she is just like them or will they reject her?
Eventually, someone somewhere will reject Peanut. Obviously, I wish this wasn’t the case, but again, let’s be honest. Its so easy to reject someone or something we don’t understand. It happens too much and for the worst reasons.
People get bullied for having a disability, for being poor, for being rich, for dressing differently, for being gay, for being ugly, for being pretty, for being black, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, etc… For being a girl, for being a boy, for bad haircuts, for wearing different jewelry, for being an only child, for being one of ten kids, for being Southern, for being blonde, for being an alcoholic, for being a child of an alcoholic, for being smart, for being dumb, for being mentally retarded, for where they buy their clothes, for their religion, for having no religion, for their taste in music, for their love of dance if they’re a boy, for their love of sports if they’re a girl, for their too large or too small private parts, for their braces, for their crooked teeth, for their curly hair, for their freckles, for needing medication, for their acne, for their weight…
For being different.
The worst part is that ‘different’ is so subjective that you can be bullied for just about anything. Anything! It’s insane, but it’s true. It breaks my heart. It infuriates me. It frustrates me. It confuses me.
Bullying worries me so much that I’ve brought myself to tears. Peanut is so beautiful and innocent and bright. I don’t want her innocence taken from her. I don’t want her to lose her positive demeanor. But the biggest thing I don’t want her to lose is her confidence. I want her to love herself and be proud of who she is, inside and out. I don’t want her to be embarrassed or ashamed because someone else can’t see past her wheelchair.
While I was cleaning this morning I noticed a skit on bullying on Sesame street and decided to sit down and watch. It was about Big Bird. He wanted to join the “Good Bird Club” and asked to join, but was rejected over and over again because he was different from the other birds. They picked on him and laughed at him and made him hate himself. It broke my heart. I was watching all of my biggest fears for Peanut in action. It was terrible. I felt so badly for Big Bird. His friends tried to tell him he was wonderful just the way he was, but he wanted to be accepted so badly by the other birds that he didn’t hear his friends.
Thankfully, his friend stuck by his side and ultimately helped him see he is beautiful just the way he is. He loved himself again.
While this video absolutely broke my heart, it also gave me hope. While it’s inevitable that Peanut will have to face negativity one day, she won’t be doing it alone. She has me, her Dad, her twin sister, her big brother, her grandparents, her aunt, her uncle, her entire extended family, her godparents, her practically-aunts-and-uncles that are husband and I’s closest friends, and eventually her own closest friends.
She will have an army of love and support. While I won’t have much control over when or how often she may or may not be bullied, I can have a hand in how she handles it and how she builds her confidence.
The biggest inspiration to stay positive is my cousin “L” and her daughter “H”. “H” has Spina Bifida and is in a wheelchair. But let me tell you, that girl is unstoppable if she wants to do something. She is incredible. She’s smart, motivated and positive. I’ve never heard her complain about her circumstances. It definitely hasn’t stopped her from being active. I’ve seen her playing wheelchair basketball, and I’ve seen pictures of her going down a zip-line (while “L” had a minor heart attack watching her to it!). She has been involved in school activities and programs and has kept her GPA up in the process. She has her license, and to top it off, I’m incredibly proud to say that she recently got accepted into a Wisconsin University!
“H”‘s Spina Bifida is a part of who she is, but it doesn’t define her. It had nothing to do with her failure or success. She kept her head up and worked hard and earned everything she’s got today. In all of this, my cousin”L” has been right there beside her as a wonderful mother. She supported her and pushed her to do her best and she was there to help “H” back up when she stumbled.
By watching my cousin and her daughter, I realize that it’s okay to worry, but Peanut’s circumstance shouldn’t define our lives. With love, support and encouragement, she will bypass any possible bullying in her youth and grow up into a confident young woman that loves herself inside and out. That’s all I hope for.