What You Can Learn From This Mom
The parents of little Chloe learned at her 20-week ultrasound that she had a severe cleft palate, which would equate to a bevy of health issues. They prepared themselves for the complications the birth defect would bring. Chloe was a gift from God, and they loved her no matter what. They gratefully accepted the challenges that would accompany her birth.
But what they weren't prepared for was the way other people would react to their precious girl.
In a post on The Mighty, Chloe's mom, Jodie, talks about some of the gawking stares and disapproving looks they have received when in public. And she has struggled with how to respond to these people. Naturally, she is hurt and angry. She wants to protect her sweet daughter from the prying and judgemental eyes of the world. So, it would be easy to respond with anger.
But Jodie instead has instead opted to exercise patience, understanding and forgiveness. When faced with those difficult moments where a stranger's stare becomes awkward and hurtful, Jodie uses the 5 following responses from which we could all learn.
1) Give them grace.
Know they've probably never had many opportunities to interact with children like my daughter. Give them grace that they might not know what to say or how to look or if it's OK to stare. Acknowledge they're trying, even if it's not quite what I want to hear. Then give them the grace to walk into an uncomfortable conversation in hopes of bringing comfort to them on this topic.
2) Forgive often.
In the beginning, I took offense to so many things, thinking no one understood. But that's just it - many don't understand. And that's OK. We're in this together to learn together. Our family doesn't have this all down, and our family and friends are learning right beside us. Before we had our daughter, we were these people too. People are going to say the wrong things, especially at the wrong times, like after a long day of appointments. But most of the time, they don't know what they're saying is wrong, they're just trying to show support. It's true many people don't understand our journey, but that just means it's our joy to help them understand, not to be offended and shut them out.
3) Be willing to talk.
I've learned to be willing to open up and say to a stranger staring at my daughter, "Isn't she beautiful? It's OK to stare at beauty like that." Then I smile and ask if they have questions or would like to talk about her. Be willing to be the one to open the door of communication. Often times others are too scared to ask questions for fear of offending.
We'd rather they say, "I'm sorry, I don't mean to stare," so we can say, "We want you to take in all of the beauty in her, not to look away as if to say she's not worthy."
4) Be ready to teach.
We have this bag we call the "Bunny Bag." It has a big bunny stuffed animal in it, along with the book "Audrey Bunny" by Angie Smith about a bunny with an imperfect heart, and a short picture book called "Mattie Breathes" by Tracie Loux about what a tracheostomy is in children's terms and concepts. We've lent it to friends and to our kiddos' playmates so they can learn more about their little sister. We're teaching our friends, and they're teaching their friends. Nothing makes our hearts soar more than when our friends say, "Will you teach me about Chloe?"
5) Be courageous enough to keep on keeping on.
At times, we've wanted to shut ourselves in and not venture out anymore due to the many stares, the comments and the sidelong glances. But what does that solve? It doesn't help teach. It doesn't help our daughter to thrive and grow. It doesn't encourage our other children that it's OK to look different. So we keep on keeping on. We continue to share pictures of her and share her life with others.
We don't have it all figured out and we haven't rehearsed some sort of speech to give each person who does a double take on our daughter. We've learned it's not about being entitled to correct someone who says something wrong, but more about giving them grace and space to learn how to treat others with differences and disabilities. It's more about gratitude for their desire to learn than it is about calling them out on the injustice of saying or doing the wrong thing.
Kindness goes a long way, and when it comes to teaching others about disabilities and differences, grace and kindness go much farther in the long road of changing the world's view of what is considered normal.
I just love this story. When I read about some of the responses Chloe was receiving, it left me angry too. But then I realized that Jodie's patient and understanding responses would go so much further than one of anger, and is just how our Father would want us to respond. God shows us all grace every time we sin and he forgives us. So, it's incredible to see a mother extending this same grace to the people reacting to her daughter's differences. God bless little Chloe and the lives and opinions that she is changing!
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h/t: The Mighty