Tuesday, October 6, 2009

5 year old questions

When my daughter was born, I had one question for those at the receiving end - Is it a girl? Sonograms had shown us the skeletal frame and we could see the 10 toes & 10 fingers. Didn't need to worry about that. But she had been modest (hopefully she stays that way) and we weren't 100% sure of the gender. We knew she'd be on the smallish side - born 5 lbs 12 oz, no surprise - but she was completely proportional, no issues, right? Her size was of some concern given that she had jaundice in a medium bad way, but they did release her when I was released. Prior to birth, that had been my biggest fear - what if I went home without my baby? But they did release her, with the caveat of daily blood tests to check the jaundice. I left the hospital with my lil' bear. My doll baby as many called her.

Tonight, I had to talk to her about some things. She has her swim lessons every Tuesday night and the winter swim team are in the other pool practicing for meets. When we walked in, I noticed a teenage girl with a metal leg. I hoped lil' bear would not notice...she didn't.

But when we were going to the restroom to change her clothes, we had to stop & let the swim team girls into the practice pool. That teenage girl did NOT have her metal leg on. Lil' bear immediately noticed & started to say, Mommy, why is she...We cut her off & said quietly we'll talk about it later.

Seconds later in the restroom as I'm helping her change - Mommy, you said we would talk about that girl. I had assumed I had bought us 20 minutes. NOPE.

I explained that something may have happened when she was in her mommy's tummy. She asked me if I had ever seen anyone like that before. I said yes, that happens in war sometimes. I did NOT mention that her pappy had personal experience with that aspect of war. (I thought about it, but didn't.) So she asked if that girl had been in war. I said no, she was too young & she was probably born with something wrong. Lil told me she was very sad. But I told her there was no need - that girl is ON THE SWIM TEAM. I have TWO legs and I was never on the swim team. (I was never on any team.)

Lil was very perplexed over her ability to swim. She tried to pretend what it would be like without a leg to kick in the pool. We'll probably get some questions about it in the next few days. I don't know what to tell her - but I tried to focus on the fact that this girl is doing what she likes to do.

Feeling sad is not a productive activity - empathy is an important skill though. I sometimes feel sad about certain people I see around town & feel paralyzed by that. I don't want Lil to feel it to that degree. We are all dealt some imperfect hand in this life - physical, mental, family, social, environmental. And you can't look at someone & say "At least my life is better than theirs" because I bet that girl has moved past her disability better than I've moved past my recent foot surgery.

Empathize with people, don't pity them. Pity is judgmental and self-righteous. Empathy is putting yourself in their place - but don't overwhelm yourself with it.

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