Curiosity leads to questions, especially in children. My three year old son David was born with what was originally diagnosed as hemangioma. After his first surgery his diagnosis was later changed to a venous malformation on his upper lip. David, along with his two brothers and I, have all been asked many questions about his lip ever since he was born. Occasionally we are asked questions from adults, but most of the time we are asked by children, which is to be expected. Many children have asked about David’s lip in a sweet, polite manor. Others have asked more rudely, pointing and staring before saying, “what’s wrong with your kid’s face?”….which is then followed by them telling their friends to go look. David has a long road ahead of him and that coincided with the fact that kids can be mean in general can make growing up even more challenging for him. I don’t mind answering these questions about David‘s condition when asked. To be honest, I actually enjoy it. The better something is explained to a child, the better they seem to receive it.
Growing up in today’s world has become tougher and tougher on kids. A situation that I’ve long been dreading recently unfolded and because of the world we live in, I always knew this moment was predetermined for David. One afternoon I took Rylan and David to Chick-fil-A. After we ate lunch I let the boys play in the jungle gym area for a bit. Being raised in a house with two older brothers, and now attending his first year of preschool, David has become much more social with other kids. While playing in the jungle gym David walked up to a group of about 4 or 5 kids. The group consisted of a few girls and a few boys, most ranging between the ages of 4 to 6. I noticed that one of the little girls, probably between 4 or 5 years old and wearing the cutest dress along with a little flower in her blonde hair, had been moving around with a set of crutches apparently due to a battle with spina bifida. Despite her condition, this tough little girl could move around the jungle gym full of wild children as good as any other kid.
David stood there, excited to get to know and play with the other children. The little girl with the flower in her hair gave David a second glance just before asking him, in the cutest little voice, “What happened to your lip?” Not really sure how to reply yet, David just jumped around in excitement, wanting to play. Then, a boy standing nearby said to David, “You have a monkey face”. Several of the other kids joined in, repeatedly chanting, “you have a monkey face, you have a monkey face”.
The little blonde girl looked around at the other kids with a somewhat frightened look on her face, a look that clearly read that she had seen this kind of immature behavior before. Finally, her expression turned angry and she shouted, “Guys, you’re NOT being nice!” As the kids finished their teasing….my other son Rylan had just come down the slide, showing up right beside David and putting his arm around his little brother‘s shoulder. I could tell that he sensed something was wrong and decided to come to his brothers aid. Fortunately all of the other children were now ready to run off and start playing again. David turned around and ran back to sit next to me for the next few minutes. Although he may not have completely understood what was going on, I think he had an idea.
The little blonde girl came over to me a few minutes later to ask about David’s lip. She listened closely as I explained it to her. She then explained everything to me about her battle with spina bifida. Incredibly intelligent, happy and self confident…..chatting with this little girl made my day. It’s a shame that more children can’t be raised to be as kind hearted and understanding as that adorable little blonde girl. I constantly remind my three boys that they can always ask me about anything they have trouble understanding, anytime or anywhere. Sometimes I share these stories with them so they can understand these situations and know how to react.
Recently I felt like I was rewarded with proof that I am raising my boys well. One afternoon Rylan and David were playing at the city park with a little girl and her baby brother whom they had just met. The girl, who was about Rylan’s age, appeared to have a severe case of hemangioma on the side of her face. The boys had a blast playing with her until it was time to go. When we left Rylan waved goodbye to the other kids, and with a huge smile on his face, he simply said to me, “I made a new friend today daddy!”.
And that’s how it should be…