So, It’s the first day of school for the kids. Jacob is a Junior, Nathan a Sophmore, James is in 5th grade now ( I cannot believe he is a year away from MIDDLE SCHOOL) and Neriah started Kindergarten. I just got home, Annabeth is napping and the house is completely quiet which is a FIRST at this hour since summer began! I can’t help but sit here with my thoughts focused on something that happened with Neriah this past Friday. I cannot get it out of my head. So, I figured I would start typing this and see where it goes.
Friday, Neriah had her Kindergarten orientation. She had been so excited to go ALL week. She got the reminder postcard in the mail and told everyone “I got my invitation to Kindergarten!” In her mind, this was the perfect reason for why she was old enough to do different things throughout the week. “I don’t need to hold your hand when I cross the road anymore! I got my invitation to Kindergarten!” (yea that one didn’t fly) Anyhow, when Friday morning actually rolled around, EVERYTHING was a meltdown. Now, for Neriah this is not entirely out of the ordinary. Anyone who knows her knows she is spunky, independent, and VERY opinionated! So, when she put on her new tennis shoes and the socks did not feel quite right, I wasn’t shocked at the quick escalation resulting in FULL ON DRAMA. She was crying and laying on the floor. I was ignoring her for the most part, with the occasional, very gentle reminder as I was trying to get the boys squared away to watch Annabeth in order for us to leave on time. She finally got up, still moaning, but sporting the full on “Charlie Brown” walk to the car. Shoulders slumped over, head staring at the ground-honestly at this point I was having to keep myself from laughing.
We got in the car and drove up the road to her school. The worship music I turned on for the ride had managed to distract her and minimize the tears. We pulled into the parking lot, and in my mind, the meltdown is over. I went around to her side to get her out and she crossed her arms, scowled her brow and said “I am not doing this Kindergarten thing.” Well, at this point I was getting frustrated so I looked at her and said in a stern voice “Neriah you do NOT have a choice, get up and come with me NOW!” You all know that voice I’m referring to. When you are stern, but quiet because people are around and you can’t be the parent yelling at their kid in the parking lot, so you grit your teeth which ends up resulting in a growl almost- THAT voice. Well, she looked up at me and I knew there was something more going on in her little head because her eyes were not defensive, they were sad. I asked her what was wrong and her words just about ripped through my soul! “Mommy I just want to have two hands, my friends are going to thing I look stupid.” WHAT?!? Neriah is so confident, this insecurity has never surfaced in her like this before. For anyone reading this not familiar with our family, Neriah was born with a limb difference, meaning she does not have the lower portion of her left arm. But if you ARE familiar with our family, you know what I mean when I say that you would NEVER KNOW IT! Nothing has ever slowed her down. So, this statement was like the biggest punch in the gut. It literally took my breath away. Fighting back the tears that welled up, I told her that this was a SAFE place. That she was beautiful, she did NOT look stupid and that her friends would not think that. I told her she was smart, kind, compassionate and super funny. I tried to reassure her that she may have friends who would have questions, but that those questions will come only because most of her friends have never seen a “rosebud” before. (this is the nickname we have for her nub) Hunter and I have always encouraged Neriah to answer those questions simply, and then to just move on. Most times, that is enough to pacify a child’s curiosity and then they are good and just want to play. However, this is the first time that Neriah had ever verbalized her insecurity to me so clearly. I was completely caught off guard.
I held her for a moment, we talked about the birds and then we went on inside and she LOVED it. The teacher and staff were so friendly, the kids played and there were literally NO problems. I, on the other hand, sat through the parent portion of orientation completely distracted and reeling from the conversation we just had. Did I say the right thing? How are we going to do this as she gets older and more of these insecurities creep in, and there really ARE mean kids? How fast can we sell the house and move out to a rural compound living completely off the grid?? (Obviously my mind was having a “mother bear” type reaction. That is not really an option, however I REALLY WAS thinking that in this moment). How do we protect her heart? How do we protect her? The most basic parenting instict that I felt in this moment I was failing at. When the blur of orientation was over we got in the car and Neriah was all smiles. I asked her how it went and she shared that one boy said something so she told him God made her that way, and then in her words “Everyone loved me mommy!” That was not surprising. Neriah has an outgoing,bubbly, and contagious personality. It doesn’t take long before she is best friends with everyone in the room. That eased my mind in that moment and we drove on to my Mom’s house for the kids Gramma spend the night. She was great and it did not come up again. Not for HER that is.
I feel like I have been obsessing since Friday. I worried this morning that her fears may surface again. And, if I’m being totally honest, I had EVERY intention of keeping her home if that ended up being the case. In hindsight that would not have been the right thing to do, but I felt my senses were SUPER heightened. Thankfully, she was all smiles all the way to her classroom. Sitting here now, trying to move past this for myself AND for her, I am trying to focus on all of the GOOD things that I have observed in Neriah BECAUSE of her limb difference. I believe that this, has given her an inner drive and motivation that I did not see in my other children, at least not at this age. She is determined to figure things out on her own, and because of that she has a strong sense of independence. Because of this, she has already been able to do things that some would have told her she couldn’t. No is not a word in Neriah’s vocabulary. (and YES this makes for some difficult parenting moments, for which I’m sure there will be lots of funny stories in the future)
While so much of her is strong willed and tough, I believe that this has also given her compassion for situations and for people in a way that some of us may not be in tune to. For example, we went bowling a couple of weeks ago, the kids and I. There was a family who came in with all of their children. Their daughter was in a wheelchair, which I learned later from the Mom was because she has CP. I could see Neriah’s eyes find her instantly and just gaze. My initial reaction was to tell her not to stare but I stopped myself, recognizing how much I HATE it when other mothers do that to her. So, I let her be curious. She looked up at me and said “Mommy can I go say hi to that girl?” I told her of course, though inside I was slightly fearful of what she may say. I watched her walk over, the mom was caught off guard at first, but then quickly she smiled and waved at me. Neriah gave the young girl a hug and then ran back to me and said “Mommy I just wanted her to have a friend at this loud bowling place!” Seriously, she melted my heart in that moment. Now though, as I’m sitting here trying to focus on good things, I really believe her boldness and compassion in that situation, and others she has been in similar to that, are hugely because she understands what it may feel like to have eyes that linger too long. She knows that when those stares are directed at you, that you want a hug or a friend in those moments. Really, that applies to ALL of us if you think about it. When we are in a situation that triggers an anxiety or insecurity, having a friend there with you can instantly quiet those voices in your head. And when you don’t have that friend with you, that’s ALL you want in those moments- a familiar safe face.
I guess to sum up this post, I know Neriah will have challenges as she grows. In reality, ALL of my children have and will continue to face difficult things. Each one of them have struggled at times, and each struggle has been unique. Neriah is no exception to that, this is how life works. I guess as I’m navigating through this as her Mom, I pray that each day she continues to grow, I can focus on the good things that come from all of the things that make us unique. Not just focusing on them in order to ease hurt, but putting a spotlight on those things that make HER unique, in a way
that empowers her! Making them things that she can be proud of. I pray that I will know how to encourage and equip her to love and accept herself EXACTLY as God made her, and to be unaffected by the negative comments that may come. I pray most importantly that whenever these moments or conversations come up, that I am able to fill them with the words that SHE needs to hear in that moment. This really is my prayer for ALL of my children. I love her so much I never want her to hurt, but when she does, I hope that I can teach her to grow out of the hurt and overcome the insecurities, not letting them define her. Neriah is SO incredible, I feel I have learned so much from her in the last 5 years being her Mommy. In fact, she has humbled me so much that I feel I will forever be trying to catch up on the amount of life lessons I can share with her!❤
God is SO GOOD. We are ALL “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.” Insecurities should never define or control us. But in a world that often times feeds those insecurities by putting too much emphasis on the superficial, I pray that when they do creep in, we are able to quickly look around us and focus on the things that are TRULY important. I will also pray for each one of you, and for myself, that we can be better everyday at recognizing the GOOD that comes from the things that make us all different.
Please share your thoughts/comments below. I would love to connect with you!