Ella is turning 8, and today I had an epiphany I wanted to share.
Most parents have a certain sadness about their children growing up, it just happens so fast! almost like you turn around and another year has past, you look back on photos and realise your baby, is a baby no more – every single day they learn and grow and blossom, which is amazing, but also a little sad. We feel like we missed to much, didn’t savour the moments, we long for our ‘babies’
I don’t feel sad about Ella growing older, I feel fear.
As I look through the ‘8 years and over’ category on Kmart, trying to find the perfect gift for her I see a microscope and board games and push bikes and books with no pictures
I go back to the 5-7 age range and there is still so much nope there. So much that’s too ‘advanced’ for her. I settle on a nice big doll house, and a few other things – knowing not to go overboard because she’ll get overwhelmed. But it really got me thinking.
The gap between her and her peers growing wider every year, she’s not growing up as fast as she’s getting older and I’m terrified.
Almost like a perpetual toddler trapped in an 8 year old body, there’s so much to fear about that, but at the moment, the biggest one – is other people. How disabled adults and older children are treated.
I can see it starting already, the looks, the reactions to her are… somewhat different than they used to be. It certainly doesn’t help that Ella is going through puberty early (a whole other can of worms) or that she’s so tall for her age – people quite often mistake her for a 9 or 10 year old.
When Ella was young, a baby – a toddler – still ‘cute’ by societies standards people would laugh and smile as she waved, or went in for an innocent hug. She’d get high fives from strangers and smiles and waves. people would exclaim how cute she was – although still asking the inappropriate question (‘whats wrong with her’) they were generally well meaning, and well responsive to her at the very least.
But now…. There’s been a shift. people shy away, act awkward, avoid eye contact and especially – tell their children not to stare.
Now I’ve always taught Ella about appropriate touch, not to hug strangers, to greet with a high five or shake hands, but unfortunately it doesn’t always sink in – she just wants to be friendly, she loves people!
A perfect example is that Ella loves to touch peoples noses, I have no idea why but it’s what she does, and now that she’s growing older, its becoming more and more inappropriate, and I dread the days she’s 17 or 18 and still wanting to touch peoples faces – understandably people don’t like it when you touch their face!
I clean her face and hands after every meal because while a toddler with food on their face is expected or ‘cute’ – as they get older, not so much.
I remind her not to pick her nose or to pull up her pants because again, as a toddler people expect it, or laugh – but as an 8 yo, people get uncomfortable – and no one wants to high five and 8 yo that’s just had their finger in her nose 😬
I make sure she’s dressed well, and try to make sure she doesn’t make people feel awkward when we’re out and about. and my epiphany is this
I shouldn’t HAVE to!
Why should I have to apologise for her, and worry about what people think?! Why should she have to change who she is?!
The differences between her and her peers so obvious now, most of them don’t want to play with her, because she can’t play like they do, little kids are often still scared of her, because she loves them too much, and adults just don’t know what to do, or what to say. they’re awkward, or down right rude to her. And I get it, I get it all, I really do, because I used to be just like you.
I think of myself 9 years ago, who I was and how I reacted to people like Ella. I didn’t do it right at all! It’s hard to admit given the life I’m now living but I don’t know how I would have reacted had an older child, or disabled adult come up to me and touched me on the face, I’m sure I would have been awkward, I probably would have walked away – maybe even laughed with my friends about it later.
but I didn’t know then what I know now – and that’s why I write about the things I do.
I know now all they want is interaction.
All Ella wants is a friendly face, a smile and a chat – at the very least – acknowledgement. She loves people, she loves talking and showing them things, and making sure they know that we’ve all got noses 😂 And to be honest I don’t want that to change! because I love who she is, She will brighten anyone’s day with her goofy grin, I love that she waves and smiles and every single damn person she sees, we should ALL be doing it – and I am so ashamed that I have been apologising for that for as long as I have.
I don’t want her to be just another cranky butt face in the supermarket – I love that she’s so friendly and I’m so sick of apologising for her being happy! Fair enough if she was having a meltdown and disrupting peoples day in a negative way, I probably owe an apology – but for being too friendly?! Nope, not any more. I’m not sorry.
I’m making a promise to myself, and more importantly to Ella – I wont apologise for her being her because she is amazing.