To the other moms out there with a child that is “different” I see you

This past week we took a family vacation to Disney World. We have always loved Disney and have been fortunate to go back every couple of years. To me Disney always feels like a giant message of hope, dreams and magic.

If you can dream it, you can do it.

-Walt Disney

I was so excited leading up to this trip especially for our 4 yr old. Being 4 at Disney is pure magic, the belief, excitement and fascination just explode from their little hearts and faces.

I was right he loved every minute, and watching him embrace all the magic and wonder was something I’ll never forget. I wasn’t fully prepared for some of the harsh realities I would see while I was there this time.

Sawyer as I have mentioned before has a love for all things glitter, pink and princesses. I would say my husband and I don’t discourage or encourage this really, we just follow his lead. His older brother and sister like what they like and we “allow” that, why would we steer Sawyer differently to like more “typical” things for boys his age.

As we made our way through Disney each day meeting characters, seeing shows, riding rides and of course shopping I started to feel like people were sometimes staring. I figured I was being paranoid, why would people be starring at us? I just ignored the perceived stares and continued enjoying our trip.

Then came the comments directed towards Sawyer or maybe at me, I wasn’t always sure. “Are those your sisters pink ears?” “Just lose the dolls before first grade buddy and you’ll be alright” “I knew a boy like him, he became a cosmetologist, maybe he can do that too” “you can have the girl paint if your parents say it’s okay” These were the worst of course but they each made me think. Why did any of these people have to say those things? Were people trying to give themselves a reason for Sawyer to like pink? It’s okay if it’s his sisters but not if it’s his? What happens if he still likes dolls in first grade? Is he supposed to be some tough guy at that point or something more typically male? Since when does paint have a gender? Why does liking a princess mean he has to be a cosmetologist? Maybe he will be a cosmetologist, maybe he’ll be a neurologist, I don’t think the Rapunzel doll decides that.

I have noticed lately Sawyer’s siblings being worried about what other people will think. This is a learning moment for all of us that it’s okay to be different than what is considered typical. My kids are always nice to any other child with any kind of difference. In my profession of early intervention they have grown up around many kids with differences. The truth is, it’s easy to accept someone outside of your circle. Inside your circle it’s drawing attention on you as well.

Everyday Sawyer’s confidence is amazing! He loves what he loves and he doesn’t care at all how you feel about that. I don’t know if that is just normal four year old confidence or a special gift of his, but it’s admirable. He is teaching me so much about just doing what makes you happy. Others will share in your happiness or they won’t, that is on them, not you.

Prior to Sawyer I have always shied away from any extra attention. I was never very confident. Attention oftentimes brings judgement. I need to show him confidence to continue to nurture his confidence. Judgement or not we need to stand tall. In supporting his passions and protecting him from others judgement I am learning myself that it is someone else’s insecurities that makes them judge. Again, that is on them, not you. No one should ever need to dim your light, spend time with those that help you shine brighter.

I met another mother at Disney, in a princess aisle, with a little boy, picking out a doll. She looked at me almost in fear at first and then saw we also had a doll. She gave me a half smile and said “Does he like princesses too?” I let Sawyer reply, he answered “I love princesses”. The Mom sighed and said “I am glad we aren’t the only one.”

I felt that moms words in so many ways. It can feel so alone to have a kid that is following a different path. Standing tall against the current isn’t easy. Everyone you come in contact with has an opinion for or against what your child is expressing. I see other moms at work or just out at the grocery store struggling the same way, battling stares or comments. Being a mom can often times feel so isolating and is full of societal pressures to be perfect. Being a mom of a child who doesn’t fit the typical mold is like being on a dessert island surrounded by a sea of judgement.

It feels important to me to speak out and say again, I see you. Keep doing the best you can. Stand strong and keep nurturing those little wings until they are ready to soar on their own.

The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.” — The Emperor (Mulan)

With Love

-Liz

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