Sunday, April 12, 2015

The beauty in our differences

As Cadence is getting older she's having more "new" friends over to our house. Most have only known Cadence for a few months or a year. Almost none of them know that she has a cleft lip/palate. If they ask why her nose is flat on one side or that it looks like she's missing teeth even though she hasn't lost any yet, she'll easily tell them that she it's because of her cleft palate. Of course, I don't think that any of them know what that means. But they got an answer and off they run to the playground.  Until they come to our house.

We have Cadence's referral picture in a frame. The picture that introduced me to my third child. The picture that I stared at endlessly, getting lost in her eyes, wondering if she was being loved and taken care of. Worrying about how she would transition into our family. Wondering if our love would be enough to help get her through whatever has happened to her before she was placed in our arms.

Another one of my favorite pictures that we have out is the first professional ones of my three girls. I swear my heart grows every time I look at the pure joy on their faces! Cadence's big, beautiful cleft smile... I fell in love with it because it was her. I even had a hard time when she had her lip repaired. I missed her cleft smile desperately.

When I look at those pictures now I don't see her cleft lip. I just see her. However, when new friends see the pictures, the cleft is all that they see. It does look dramatic. Most kids have never seen a child with an unrepaired cleft. And I think it can be hard to relate that to the crazy, giggly girl that they know.  Most of them ask questions about it, understandably. Some are a little confused, some listen and move on. A few have said things that can hurt if Cadence is really paying attention. "I'm sure am glad I wasn't born with a cleft" and "That is soooo weird". I don't fault them. They are young kids. I'm sure my kids have said inappropriate things in similar situations.

I know from our six months that Cadence was first home with her unrepaired lip the reactions that happen in stores and on the street. We're standing in the grocery line and Adult makes every effort not to look at Child with cleft. Kid can't stop staring at Child with cleft. Adult grabs staring Kid and whispers "Stop staring" and tries to hustle them away from Child with cleft so they can't see. Back then, I made every effort to reach out to that family though. To explain to kids that this a cleft lip, it's how Cadence was born, just like staring Kid was born with brown hair/freckles/blue eyes. Yes, it looks different and because it makes it hard for her to talk a doctor will fix it one day and her lip will look like most kids. I wanted to use the moment to teach them that it's okay to look and ask questions (hopefully politely) but mostly I wanted them to know that she is a kid just like they are... just one that looks different. Because all of us are different and that's what makes the world kind of awesome! There is beauty in our differences and they don't have to be ignored, just respected.

Cadence is a pretty self assured little girl but I worry that as she gets older about comments that she hears might not roll off her back like they do now. For now I'll try to help my kids see the beauty in everyone's differences as well as the things that makes each of them different from every other person in their class or on the street. Hopefully they will carry that with them where ever they go and with whomever they encounter.

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