“It’s not what you see; it’s how you see it. Choose to see with compassion. Choose to embrace with understanding. Choose to be kind.”
From the day we found out about Liam’s cleft lip and palate I have been afraid of how others will treat him. How others will act towards him. What will they say about him? Afraid that he will be bullied in school. It’s a scary feeling because this world can be so cruel.
Having a child born with craniofacial abnormalities is hard to handle. People look at your baby differently than they look at other babies. You are constantly worried about what others are thinking. When they take a second glance walking by and you see their facial expression. Getting the “awe, how cu-“ and then them trying to avoid the fact that they were just going to say “how cute”. People just flat out staring at your baby.
It’s sad. It’s hurtful.
This is your baby. This is your child. This is your life.
People can be really mean. Plain and simple.
I remember being at our pediatrician’s office and while walking around in the waiting room a little girl kept staring at Liam… I knew it was coming. She looked at me and said “He looks like a monster”. Y’all know how hard it was for me to not break out in tears?! Her mom didn’t say a word. I could tell that she was embarrassed. She kept tugging on her daughter’s arm trying to get her to stop staring. I tried my best to hold my composure and act like her comment didn’t bother me. She was just a little girl and she didn’t know any better but it still hurt.
But this brings me to my point…
Her mom did not acknowledge the fact that she said it. She didn’t try to explain to her daughter why my son looked the way he did. She didn’t ask if I could help explain it to her. She didn’t explain to her that others are born differently. Not even a “honey that’s not very nice”. NOTHING. I was so taken back by this. I’ve gotten many hurtful comments about Liam on social media but this was the first time that I heard it in person. I didn’t know how to act. I mean, how do you act?! Instead of explaining to her why my son looks like a “monster” I walked away with a tear running down my cheek. Thanking God that Liam will never know she said that.
This situation weighed hard on me. I know how embarrassed her mother was. I know she felt uncomfortable. To be honest, I regret not asking her mother if she would mind if I explained it to her daughter. I wish I would have explained to her why Liam was wearing so much tape on his face. Or why he looks differently than her.
As parents, we are our children’s educators. We teach them right from wrong. We teach them about diversity. We teach them about differences. So we should teach them that some children are born differently than others. We should teach them what is okay to say and what is not okay.
We are here to educate them.
To do this though, we need to be kind ourselves. As adults. As parents. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve gotten horrible comments about Liam from adults. Grown adults. It’s like people don’t think before they speak. Or they just don’t care about others feelings. I am not sure which one it is but it’s not okay. It’s hurtful. There are so many other parents and children going through the same thing. Whether it’s cleft lip/palate or another kind of craniofacial abnormality. Some children are old enough to understand the comments or notice those looks and that is heartbreaking. Imagine how they feel.
This world is so cruel. So please, be kind. Our children learn from us. They act how they see us act. Teach your children to be KIND. The best way to do this is to be kind yourself.
I cannot speak for every parent but it’s almost always okay to ask questions. I would rather that mother have said “Honey, why don’t you ask his mom why he is wearing the tape on his face”. Or if she would have asked me if it was okay if she explained to her daughter why he looks the way he does. Or asked me to explain it. It’s completely understandable if you don’t want to go into detail about it. Some parents feel uncomfortable in the situation. A simple “some babies are born differently honey and that’s okay.” or “that’s not very nice”. But not acknowledging it at all does not help.
*I am more than happy to help educate you or your little one on cleft lip and palate. I think it’s great when people ask me about Liam or why he is wearing tape on his face. Or why he has food coming out of his nose. Or anything in general about cleft lip and palate. I do NOT mind at all. This helps spread awareness.
Words hurt, no matter what. They hurt and they stay around for a long time, sometimes even forever.
It’s so easy to be kind.