Different IS Awesome!!- Let’s Celebrate our Differences with a fun story and a GIVEAWAY!!
August 31, 2018
I recently connected with an incredible guy named Ryan Haack. He was born with a limb difference (a rosebud ❤) just like Neriah! He now has a website called Living One Handed, and has written the most incredible children’s book. His book is titled “Different Is Awesome” and it really is now our favorite book. We have already used it for Neriah to share with her class at school which has been hugely helpful! I TRULY believe that this book would be good for ALL parents to read and share with their children. It teaches us, in a very age appropriate way, that we are ALL different and that our differences are something to be celebrated and not something to fear or avoid talking about. Obviously when a child sees someone with a few extra differences than what they are used to, they have questions and those questions are OK. That’s why I believe with SO MUCH of my Mommy soul 😊, that this book is also educational for parents as well. When you encounter a situation like this, while I recognize it’s difficult to always know what to say, don’t quiet your child or try to divert their attention. Guide them, let them know it’s okay to be curious and use those moments to teach them that different is not scary, it really is AWESOME, as Ryan has done such a good job illustrating in this book. So, I wrote a post for another website about a cute story we experienced with Neriah recently and I thought it would be a perfect story to share here in connection with Ryan’s incredible children’s book, and as a launch for the GIVEAWAY we have decided to host. YES- a GIVEAWAY!! There are lots of FREE ways to enter, making you eligible to win a SIGNED copy of Ryan’s “Different is Awesome”, and a “Wonderfully Made” water bottle (designed by our very own Neriah). Details will be at the end of this post! Keep reading and PLEASE share with your friends. Ryan is an INCREDIBLE man with an AWESOME message- I really want to be part of, even if only in a small way, helping to spread the word that DIFFERENT IS AWESOME!
So, here is our personal experience that makes this book so relevant to our family and our lives. Six years ago, when we made the choice to adopt and were awaiting the call that a Birthmother had chosen our family, my husband and I had never heard the term Amniotic Band Syndrome. I will never forget when the call finally came, and those words were spoken and explained to us for the first time. They informed us that this little baby girl would be born without the lower left portion of her arm. It was not what we were expecting. Fortunately, we were on the same page from the beginning and did not really hesitate. We had discussed early on the possibility of congenital birth “abnormalities” (I hate that word) and our openness to those types of cases. We knew God was going to bring the right baby to our family, so we had committed at the beginning of the adoption process, never to say “no.” So, with this phone call, we said yes! A few months later we were in the hospital, only hours after Neriah was born. We were so anxious to meet and hold her for the first time. Her Daddy tells her the story often, always at her request, of peering into the nursery window and seeing her “rosebud” (that’s her nickname for her nub) pop up and how he yelled out “that’s my girl!’ He tells her that’s how we picked her out from the very beginning. When she re-tells this story she always makes sure to state that this is part of what makes her so special. I remember holding her for the first time and we instantly fell in love with every inch of this perfect little baby they had placed in our arms.
As the months and years passed, and Neriah began to grow, we started to encounter challenges. Most obstacles came from outside sources. There were, and still are, many stares and discouraging “opinions” that people cannot seem to keep to themselves! We have slowly become immune to the stares. In fact, we often joke as a family that when we notice people with lingering glares, we forget why for a short period. We try to figure out what in the world we have going on that would provoke such prolonged looks. Honestly, my first thought as her mom is usually “Wow, what outfit did I put her in today? She must look SUPER cute!” As a mother, when these moments come, while my heart breaks for the potential pain being inflicted and my inability to stop it, I try to find encouragement and inspiration watching Neriah. I notice the drive, determination and confidence that has been part of her from the very beginning of her life. She has adapted so well along the way when learning to crawl, walk, dress herself, cut her food, all of the normal milestones she conquers with no difficulties. The challenges, as I stated earlier, seem to come from limits that the world wants to put on her. She has experienced bullying at times from her peers, stares from curious eyes, children who act “afraid” of her because she is different and mothers on the playground, grabbing their kids hoping to quickly leave or divert their attention before they have to answer any difficult questions. (This one I notice more than she does at this stage). All of this she has dealt with at the young age of 5, but STILL she perseveres, and her confidence is seemingly unscathed. She loves with a huge heart and wants to engage everyone around her. As her mom, I want so badly for everyone to know NERIAH and her spirit and not just focus on the things they see that are different.
As a result of this desire, I tend to step in when difficult situations arise, often times too early. Our family recently went to a park where Neriah encountered a little boy who asked her about her arm. She answered him, telling him she was born that way, and then continued to try to play with him. On the advice of my husband, I decided to let Neriah navigate this, and to sit back and observe. They walked over to the slide and he stopped her, telling her “You can’t do this! You only have one hand.” Neriah quickly ran past him, climbed up the slide, slid down, and ran back around, passing him as he was climbing up the ladder. (She had the biggest smile of course). They then went on to the swings… Again, he put his hand up and told Neriah “You can’t do this, you only have one hand.” Well, again, Neriah climbed all the way up, sitting straight up on the swing and pumping those little legs so fast, it had me exhausted just watching her! Meanwhile, her little friend just laid across the swing on his tummy, seemingly envious of the height that Neriah was gaining on her swing. Bored on the swings, the little boy then moved over to the sandbox, where Neriah quickly joined him. They sat and played for a few minutes, until Neriah jumped up, did her favorite yoga pose (the tree for those yoga enthusiasts reading) and said to her friend, “Do you want to do yoga? I can do yoga too!” To which the little boy replied, “No thank you, I can’t do yoga… but we can both play here in the sandbox.” And that is exactly what they did. I realized a lot as her parent in that moment. I realized that Neriah will never be told by anyone that she CAN’T do something. She will prove them wrong, over and over, by doing what it is they believe she is incapable of. I realized that as hard as it is to allow her to be in situations that have the potential to be hurtful, I have to allow HER to be the one to navigate those waters, in order to prove to others and to herself that she CAN. I learned that there will be no one in Neriah’s life better equipped than herself, for changing this narrative. She will be the one to change the preconceived ideas that people will have about her. She will hopefully change their view, by simply DOING the things they believe she is incapable of doing.
There are so many things she CAN do and so many other things that make her “different” besides just her rosebud. Neriah is DEFINITELY my most energetic and spunky child thus far. She is actually very good at yoga, busting out poses in the most random places, usually giving us all a good laugh. She is a great artist especially for being as young as she is. She loves music and has recently started playing the violin. She has a huge heart and wants so badly to love and care for the people around her. LOYAL is a great word to describe her. If her sister gets put on time out, she insists on sitting there for the duration and holding her hand. All of these things make Neriah her own person, they make her unique, different and AWESOME! The word CAN’T has never even entered into her mind. Thankfully, it has not entered into the minds of those that love her either. Neriah continues to inspire the people who are close to her, and hopefully, everyone who encounters her as she journeys through this life. I am not naive to think that she will never have difficult times as she grows up. I do hope and believe however, that through the encouragement she gets from others, and hopefully through continued education and awareness surrounding limb difference, or ANY difference, the world is going to be one HUGE adventure for Neriah. I pray that she will always believe she can do anything her heart desires. I pray that this world becomes a place where our differences are something to be celebrated and not something to be afraid of or shy away from. I hope that through educating people, we can all come to a better place of understanding and supporting one another. I pray that we- as parents, teachers, educators, brothers, sisters, co-workers and friends, can embrace and convey to the future generations that DIFFERENT IS AWESOME!!!!!