In my freshman year of high school, our family moved from my hometown of Yuma, Arizona to Fountain Valley, California. The name Fountain Valley is exactly the image you are currently conjuring up; hence, the pit in my stomach to move there. Everything preppy, cliquish, and feeling like a square peg ramming into a round hole.
My first days of lunch were spent hiding out in the library to avoid any awkward encounters, while writing in my journal, "I hate it here, I want to move back!" I had never experienced being on the outside before the move, and it felt incredibly isolating and lonely.
Today, Ben sent me an article about a 10 year old boy who told his mom he didn't want a birthday party, because "he didn't have any friends." The subject line from his email read: "made me sad for tough times ahead for our girl."
My heart fissured more. I was taken back to the deserted bench in the shadows of the library on that overcast January day in southern California.
I only share so much about this as I want to preserve my daughter's dignity and story. And still, I'd like to be honest with you, in hopes that you can relate, or know someone who can. The truth of the matter is making friends is hard. You can be socially astute, well-liked, and still have a hard time with certain aspects of making friends.
I guarantee any of you with children have had all of them either tell you or show signs of feeling hurt by a friend.
And here's the hard part. When you have a child who has special needs; but, not a label where it's "obvious" to the common person, I have seen how a lack of compassion and understanding are given.
I dread when my daughter reaches upper elementary and especially middle school. I have no clue as to what our world is going to look like. I imagine it's going to be tough. It could turn out quite opposite; but, what we know now--that doesn't look to be so.
When you're "different" it's not always a desirable trait. When you watch all the other kids play while your child sits by herself; because, one--she's just comfortable being alone, and two, she isn't invited to join them, a little bit of you breaks. What do you do when your child is socially awkward?
I'll tell you.
You sometimes want to scream, and say, "damn it--she's lovely, and beautiful, and wonderful and fearfully made. She's loyal, and loving, and kind, and imaginative." Other times, you see the grace and mercy of the cross to give to others who stare with wild eyes. And other times, not.
You are reminded of Psalm 139:13-14
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Because you know the hurt is going to come. This life was never promised without grief, pain and trials. It's why we as parents get to teach our children to love others, because they are fearfully and wonderfully made--PERIOD.
I get to teach my oldest that God made her for his glory. I get to teach her "to love" in spite of hurt. But, I get to teach the other two the same. Cadence and Caprice are given a gift to have a sister who has special needs to see the bigger, more extravagant painting of God's children.
Ben and I get to remind each of our girls, that God made them fearfully and wonderfully. We get to bend our knees to the cross, so they too would shine their lives for Him, in order to love, to dance, to sing in freedom for themselves and others.
We don't have to walk this road that long to recall moments, or know someone who is a little different. Sometimes it's spelled in their genetics or being developmentally delayed. Other times, it's simply, because it's them.
Parents, can I urge you to welcome love into your home. To teach your kids how different isn't abnormal, just different. One thing that is common in all of humanity is the need for love. So, when you get that weird child talking to you in the grocery store, or classroom, know they don't mean to ask you obtuse questions without tact. The more we parents, teachers, adults, can institute unconditional love in children's lives, the more we will see bonds being woven and children growing up to know they have been fearfully & wonderfully made.