A couple of weeks ago Olivia and I were sitting on the couch talking about her day when she said to me, "My eyes are creepy."
"What? Where did you hear that?" I asked, completely horrified.
"At school," she said.
My heart didn't just break, it shattered over and over and over.
I knew this was coming. I knew it. But I didn't know it would so soon, before she even turned four. I figured I had a few more years to remind her how strong, beautiful, smart, and amazing she is and build her confidence before I had to send her off to a school full of strangers who don't know her and don't understand what she has been through. But no. It was from the honest mouth of toddler like her in a school where she isn't the only child needing a little extra support or therapy.
Thank goodness Olivia's three year old mind doesn't know what "creepy" is, she doesn't understand what that means, and I think was ultimately not phased by the whole thing. It was me who was bothered by it. It bothered me that it was said, it bothered me that this only the first of many hurtful things that will be said, and it bothered me that her little mind remembered the word "creepy" and that it was used to describe her physical appearance. I can't be upset with the child that said it, as I'm sure it wasn't meant how it came it. Toddlers are awfully honest. But I am still upset.
I want to be able to say that it doesn't matter, that I shouldn't worry about what a toddler says about her physical appearance because appearance doesn't matter....it's what's on the inside...yeah, yeah I know. We all know that. But how long did it take us to really understand that and apply it in life? But if I'm being honest here, appearance matters and what people say to us about our appearance matters to us when we are young. We remember the things that are said, the jokes that are made at our expense. We remember the damage it does even after we are old enough to not let those things bother us anymore. For awhile, it does matter. And despite my strongest efforts to teach her, help her understand that she is not defined by any illness in her childhood or her lack of a full set of chromosomes, there will be instances where insecurities will creep in, her confidence will waver, and her tender feelings will be hurt. And I can only hope that what I have taught her and tried to instill in her will be more than enough to carry her through those times.