Our children are shaped by us and their surroundings. More-so than we would like at times. I am NOT a perfect parent and feel I fall far short by any standards. I feel more challenged on a daily basis in my parenting of Ava because of the way God knit her together. She's sweet and tender-hearted. She's got sass and a silly personality. She loves to
It was just before Thanksgiving when we noticed that Ava's right eye was drifting inward a lot. I, immediately, called the eye doctor's office to schedule an appointment. Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, we had to wait almost a full week before being seen. As a parent, it felt like an eternity when you know something is not right and you feel like the longer you have to wait the worse the situation is becoming. The exam revealed that Ava's right eye just has a more difficult time focusing (possibly due to school and having to focus much more intently in front of her or due to the day in which we live with so many electronic devices that children get to play with -- iPhones and iPads that they hold close to their faces to play. Guilty parent here.) so when Ava's eyes become more relaxed, that eye just drifts inward. Her vision in both eyes is perfect so there's really nothing they need to do for her vision. She has a prescription/glasses to help her right eye to focus and not drift.
As many of you have seen, she is stinking C.U.T.E. in her little purple glasses. But what you don't see and what you didn't hear were the tears and the questions from a little girl who knew she would look different than the other kids in her class. "What if they laugh at me?" "Do I have to wear them forever?" "I like me better without glasses." Every tear she cried, I, secretly, cried, too. Each question a dagger to my heart. Because every question she was asking was the same question that flooded my mind and gripped me with panic.
What IF the kids laugh at her?
How do I protect her heart from this?
It's a part of life but why does it have to be?
Kids can be cruel out of ignorance. It's not going to change how it affects Ava. It will crush her.
Help me help her.
What do I do?
What do I say?
I cannot tell you how many times we have affirmed and continue to affirm her. I cannot tell you how, desperately, I want OUR affirmation to be ENOUGH. But we all know it's not enough. We still want those around us to speak positive things about us. It is no different in the heart of a 5 year old little girl. To God be the glory that after Ava's first day at school with her glasses not a single kid made fun of her. One of her sweet little friends even told her that she liked her new glasses. We have less issues with the glasses now than we did, but she'd still rather not wear them. And....if I'm being honest, I miss looking straight into those big blue eyes without dodging frames or seeing through reflective glare. But it is what it is right now. We continually pray that God would restore focus to that eye, strength to the muscles around that eye and we believe that day is coming. But until then, we continue to affirm her because we never know when the stupid devil might rear his ugly head. Like today. But not with her. With me.
This week has been Dr. Seuss week at school for Ava. She attends a private Christian school nearby, for those who may not know. I wanted to fix her hair like Cindy Leu Who on Tuesday but Ava refused because it was "different" than "normal". Remember that 5 year old who cares what others think about her?? So, we did a normal hairstyle. Yesterday, Wednesday, was Wacky Wednesday. I assured her that EVERYONE was dressing silly for school. She was game then! So, she dressed silly and loved it! I even saw that the public schools were doing Wacky Wednesday, too. Today, some public schools are doing "Hat Day" and others are having "Nerd Day". And just typing that word, "nerd", makes my stomach curl. Not because I've had a previous bad experience with candy "nerds" and ate too many once. But because all of the pictures I've seen of kids dressed up as "nerds", they're all wearing glasses. Believe me. They're ALL ADORABLE and I love them!! I love your kids! So, please don't get me wrong. I get the stereotype. I went to school once. Many years ago...But many of these kids that I've seen, they're all kindergarteners. Do they even know what the term "nerd" means? Have they ever heard that word before? I'd venture out on a limb here and say no, they probably haven't. It's not a term we use in our household on a regular basis (haven't ever) so my hope is that other families aren't tossing the word around either. I couldn't help but wonder what may have been conveyed to these little 5 and 6 year old minds regarding what a nerd is....someone who wears glasses? Someone who doesn't dress "cool"? Have you looked up the term "nerd" in a dictionary? I did and it's not actually what I had originally thought. Dictionary.com defines "nerd" as the following:
1. a stupid, irritating, ineffectual, or unattractive person.
2. an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit: a computer nerd.
I'm confident that no one would have intended that their child portray these characteristics today. At least, I hope not. My fear is that children are learning way too young to label someone based on what they see on the outside. My daughter is not a "nerd", period. But I, certainly, don't want ANYONE to label her as one because she wears glasses. An observation made on the outside does not reflect the nature of one on the inside. If only we could all be more like the Lord in this respect (myself included):
"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV
I want to raise my children to see the good in others, even if the outward appearance or behavior is not what we always view as "normal". Because regardless of what we see, God's hand was at work when each and every individual was made. "For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb." Psalm 139:13. Are we quick to judge by what we see? Yes. I'm convinced its the sinful nature within us that we have to crucify daily. I've even had to remind myself and Jordan to be careful of our judgements when simply watching American Idol. Because there are little eyes watching and ears listening to the singers perform and hearing what we say in regards to their performance and she's gathering all that information and processing it in her 5 year old little mind. They learn. From US. I've never wanted to be more careful of my words and actions than now. Our behavior towards a child with special needs is picked up on by our children. That child with an extra chromosome or a unique genetic "makeup" didn't happen by mistake. GOD'S HAND created that child. Scientists gave "it" a name. God just calls them HIS. A child who wears glasses is no different than a child without. It's just an extra accessory they get to sport. But the tender heart of a child can't comprehend this. My 5 year old's little heart can't comprehend this. So, I'm thankful today that it was "Green Eggs and Ham Day" at her school and not "Nerd Day". Because she's smart. If I told Ava that it was "Nerd Day" at school and she had to dress up (how would we dress her up, by the way?!)....and she walked into her classroom and saw that EVERY SINGLE KID was wearing glasses just like her??? She'd put two and two together. And then I can hear the barrage of questions as I wipe the tears..."Am I a nerd, Mommy?" "Then why did all the kids wear glasses like me today?" I know it's all in fun for the kids and I hope they did have fun. But what about the one like Ava? The one who wears glasses EVERY DAY? The one who put on their glasses this morning and went to school to see their peers wearing glasses and dressed up in an "unfashionable" way all in the name of fun??!! How did they feel today? What happened in the deepest parts of their heart today?
So, this post is for that one kid that sat in a public classroom today wearing glasses because they have to, who already knows their outward appearance is different than the rest and had to witness the stereotype of society that "nerds" wear glasses. May their lives never be defined by their peers. May they never be defined by society. But may they always be defined as the special and unique person that God created them to be from the beginning of time. And may we, as parents, strive to teach our children to love others. Truly love others. And to be aware of what we "say" without saying a word. And for any mommies and daddies who will wipe tears from their baby's eyes after school today, keep affirming them. Don't be too tired of saying the same thing over and over and over and over again. They need to hear their worth and value from you...endlessly.
And lastly, is there a petition that can be signed to end "Nerd Day" in school?!
There's NOTHING "nerdy" about this incredible daughter of the Most High God who will help change the world one day!