Did this really happen?
I certainly wasn't expecting this day to arrive so soon. Madeline is just three and a half years old. How could she possibly understand? But she does. Insert sigh.
Of all places this could've happened, it happened to take place at church. I volunteer in Madeline's class at church. I do this as a way to help foster trust and help her feel safe in the class before eventually "leaving her there" without me during the service, which will happen at some point in the future. We have been attending class together for about four months now and see a lot of the same kids.
She plays well with the other kids and participates in the singing. For bible story time, though, she sits on my lap on the floor with the other children around us. This one little boy sitting in front of us kept staring at her. Okay, this is not unusual. It happens all the time. However, most of the time, Madeline is oblivious to the stares because she's listening to the bible story. Not this week.
This little boy asked her what happened to her arm. Again, no big deal. Madeline promptly answered, "Dat way I born. Dat way God made me." His staring continued, as did his question. She finally got so fed up with him that she. hid. her. arm. *SNIFF* Oh, how my heart broke into a thousand little pieces for my precious baby girl.
I quickly told the boy, "She doesn't like it when you stare at her arm. It's not okay. Turn around." Thankfully he listened. But the damage was already done.
As if that was NOT enough, a little boy sitting on our right kept getting up to look at her arm and kept asking the same question, "What happened to her arm?" Again, she answered him the best way she knows how, "Dat way I born. Dat way God made me." Nope, that's not enough. He got right up into her personal space to get a real, close look at her arm. Again, she hid her precious, little arm. Okay. Enough already. I respectfully told this boy the same thing I told the other one.
As soon as the boys sat back down, I took Madeline's arm from behind her back and placed it in front of her. I told her it was okay and that she shouldn't hide her arm. I told her that God made her extra special, and she shouldn't be ashamed of that.
There's no doubt she is keenly aware of her limb difference. And up until this point, I thought we had prepared her for answering the same, basic question she always gets. But now it seems it's not enough. We need to help her deal with the "perpetrators" AND her emotions when the stares and questions get to a point that they bother her. Wow. I was not prepared for this to happen at the age of three, let me tell you.
Lord, help us to equip our daughter with all the wisdom, love, and support she'll need to live the life You have planned for her. Help us to prepare her for the stares, the questions, and the eventual ugly and mean comments all because she was born differently. We know in Your eyes, she's just perfect. Help her to trust in this truth. In Jesus' name. Amen.