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My Daughter is Better Than Me

Sometimes, I really love how oblivious and unpredictable kids can be. The funny questions, the silly comments—I live for the unintentional hilarity. With that, however, comes their knack for saying the absolute wrong thing at the least opportune time. Like when another parent makes my daughter lunch at a playdate, and she says “I don’t like this. Can you make me lunch at home?” Which is why, when we see someone who is disabled or someone who looks drastically different in some way, I hold my breath. I steer my girl away, continually distracting as we go, in order to avoid a potentially embarrassing moment. I tell myself it’s to protect the other person involved, but maybe I’m more concerned with sparing myself from feeling uncomfortable.

My Daughter Is A Better Person Than MeRecently, we met some friends for lunch. As we were walking into the restaurant, we held the door for a teenage girl in a wheelchair who was missing both of her legs. I looked down at my daughter and saw her little mind working. She narrowed her eyes a bit, tilted her head, and started to open her mouth. We were well within ear shot of the teenage girl, so I squeezed my daughter’s hand, shushed her, and quickly led her to the back of the restaurant.

A few minutes later, I saw the girl for the second time. My daughter noticed her as well, and I could again see her working out the thing she needed to say. The girl was several tables away from us, providing a big enough buffer for anything my child needed to ask that could potentially prove embarrassing, anything that might cause people to call my parenting into question. I decided to let her proceed. I had my “God Makes Everyone Different” response locked and loaded, on the tip of my tongue. I knew just what to say and was going to feel really good about this “teachable moment” afterwards. I braced myself as my little one pointed her finger, opened her mouth and said:

“Mom! That girl over there…she’s wearing a Super Man t-shirt!”

I looked up, and indeed—the girl who I thought of as The Girl In The Wheelchair was wearing a Super Man t-shirt. I hadn’t even noticed. I was the one who couldn’t see past the wheelchair. I couldn’t stop wondering why such a young soul was missing her legs. To my daughter, she was simply any other person. Turns out it was a teachable moment—but not for my daughter. Rather I was the one in need of a lesson that day.

“Isn’t that cool?” she followed up.

I smiled and agreed. We moved on to other topics and other observations my girl made. Not once did she ask about the wheelchair, why the girl didn’t have legs, or about any of the other things that I had noticed—that she clearly had not. And so I began to consider all of the other times that I was concerned about my daughter saying the wrong thing to someone. All those times that she probably hadn’t noticed anything different at all. So I think I’ll stop grabbing her hand and pulling her way. Maybe I’ll trust her, and try to be more like her. I hope she never changes. I hope she always chooses to see the Super Man t-shirt.

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2 Responses to My Daughter is Better Than Me

  1. Julie July 7, 2016 at 1:10 am #

    Great story Torrey. We would be a better society if we paused and looked at things through a child’s perspective.

  2. Mary O’Neil July 22, 2016 at 9:26 am #

    This is such a sweet story! It reminds me of something I saw on Facebook a little while ago… at the end of the european soccer tournaments, a sweet little boy hugged a stranger and grown man supporting the opposite (and losing) team who had been clearly upset by the loss. It would be a better world if adults could set aside problems and differences like children!

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