I’m Totally Freaked Out!

May 29, 2013 — 17 Comments


Basically right in my face.

I dropped my daughter off at her pre-k classroom this morning and that’s how one of the girls regaled me.  A number of them started screaming, feeding off of each other, and as I left I saw Claire say, “He actually has one and a HALF!”  I wanted to laugh, but It wasn’t funny.  She looked sad and uncomfortable.  I wished I could have stayed, but had to go to work.  I wish I had stayed anyway.

If you know me at all, you’re aware that I don’t mind kids’ stares and awkward (read: offensive) reactions.  They’re kids.  Yes, it can be obnoxious, but whatever.  Today, though, I thought to myself, “What if I weren’t me?”  What if I was somebody that was more self-conscious; someone less comfortable with himself?  I’d have been horrified!  I would have yelled at those kids and cried when I got back to my car, telling myself, “THIS is why you don’t go out.”

And then at dinner I asked Claire about this morning and she got really sad.  I asked about their reaction and she said they just kept laughing because they “thought it was weird.”  My arm, she meant.  “Did you say anything?” I asked.  “I tried to, but they just kept laughing and not listening to me!” Claire replied.  It broke my heart.  She tried to defend me, but it fell on deaf ears.

Tomorrow I’m going to stay for a few extra minutes when I drop Claire off.

I want the kids to be able to ask me questions.  I want to give Claire a chance to say something if she wants to.  I want them to see that I’m not something to be freaked-out by, but that I’m a loving dad and a pretty funny guy.  I want to tell them, lovingly, that laughing and screaming about someone’s difference is inappropriate.  I will tell them that we’re all different in some way and that, instead of freaking-out about it, we should ask questions nicely and get to know people as friends.  I want to help out the next person who might not be like me.

And I’m still debating about whether or not to end our time together by screaming and chasing them around the room while I flail my arms.

We’ll see.



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I'm a husband, a father, an author, a speaker, a friend...all kinds of things, actually.

17 responses to I’m Totally Freaked Out!

  1. That’s the absolute best thing you can do-because they WILL come in contact with lots of others who are different-and clearly they have not been taught how to appropriately respond to someone with a difference. A child with a difference surely would not have broad shoulders like you-and would be crushed by an inappropriate response such as that. Thank you for taking the time to show them how to react appropriately & with compassion for another human being. I try to teach my students this all the time. We make a difference.<3 BTW-you rock.

  2. We’ve had similar experiences and it has taken me off guard every time. Actually, Jordan’s reaction (mostly ignoring it) has been better than mine. This is where I have reached out to parents to help educate… and if the parents don’t want to help educate, it’s like talking to a brick wall. And I have to walk away. That’s hard to do sometimes. I hope you have a chance to educate the next time you’re around the kids.

  3. I’d run around screaming at them! 🙂
    If you do – you better have Clarie record it so we can all see it! 🙂

  4. I actually went to visit my son’s kindergarten class 2 weeks ago, to talk to them and answer questions relating to my son’s arm. They loved finding out that some of their favorite characters have little arms like my son, Nemo, Luke Skywalker (the faces made in the little boys faces when I mentioned his name was priceless), and both Buzz & Woody in Toy Store 1 & 2 lost an arm. Since my son is 5, we have lots of opportunities to answer those questions all the time, and I’ve always been prepared to answer them head on, but my favorite times are when my son’s close in age friends are around when they are ask and I hear them answer the question as if it is no big deal and that person should just get over it and join in the fun. Anyways, my son really enjoys your videos, especially the tying a shoe one, he’s very determined to learn. Thank you!

  5. I LOVE the idea about running after them and screaming! Hilarious!!! My oldest daughter has diabetes and has only been going to public school for 2 years. She has quite a few books for kids, about kids, with diabetes, and she has taken them to school to be read aloud. Now, I’m wondering if they have one about children with limb differences. I can so see that I will need to have that in my back pocket for when Poppy gets to school. Children do need to be taught appropriate reactions like Aimee above mentioned, but I also think it probably doesn’t come up much, because there aren’t a whole lot of limb different people out there. That and most people don’t think outside of their immediate circle.
    Hope you have a great rest of your week, Ryan.

  6. I think that educating the kids is the best way to get through to them. I was born with only four full fingers and have found that talking to the people that stare and snicker is the best way to get through to them. Rational thinking and humor is the best way to fix any situation. Great post!

    Today I have a brand new grandson…

    …he weighs 8 pounds which is pretty good considering that he was born minus his right arm. He’ll be a south paw for sure, we’ll never have to guess about that. Can you imagine how strong that arm is going to be? I think that my grandson is going to be one heckuva strong character all around.

    I know some things that no one else knows about him yet. He’s a blessing to my daughter who at times needs a reminder of how strong she is. Little Joachin will let her know every single day now that he’s here. I’d thank him now for that but he hasn’t learned any English yet. Someday I’ll have to let him know how much I appreciate everything he’s going to do for my beautiful daughter who waited a long time for him to show up.

    As proud as I am of her, I can only imagine the pride she will feel for her little boy. Everything he does will be just a little tougher for him but as he tries a bit harder, she will beam with the pride of a mother who has watched her child face challenge after challenge and accomplish things she never dreamt him capable of accomplishing.

    We’re all born with challenges ahead of us, but most of us don’t realize how strong our children are because we assume that success is a given. Joachin’s mother won’t make that assumption lightly so when he shows his strength, she will be a lucky mother indeed. She will know that her son has worked hard to tie his shoes, write his name and catch a ball. Most mother’s take such achievements as ordinary milestones but my daughter will see Joachin’s success’s as the true triumphs that they are. She’s a lucky mother indeed.

    What a strong arm he will have! That one arm will take him through life, literally single-handedly. It will be a Herculean arm that will hug her tightly enough to let her know that her son doesn’t need two arms to show his love and appreciation for a mother who has grown stronger along with him. My pride in them both may be early, but it is well placed, of that I am sure.

    I often wonder why so many challenges are placed in my way but Joachin’s birth has answered so many questions. I had to face challenges so that I could be here today, and be here with the strength that my daughter needs as she meets her amazing little boy. I can’t afford to be in California to hold Joachin yet but I am so looking forward to meeting the little man myself. He will do with one arm what many can’t do with two. My wonderful daughter gets to watch him grow up to be a strong man who will show her that he only needs one arm to reach his own stars, however high they may be.

    Once again, I thank Joachin for what he will do for my daughter. The tiny arm he possesses today will be an amazing arm and he will be an amazing human being, giving us all strength that we never knew we had. And I thank my daughter for giving me such an amazing gift, a grandson who has already, in less that 12 hours on this planet, shown me why life can be so rocky. And, he’s made me a little bit ashamed that I ever asked, “Why me?”

  8. Ryan,

    I love your mixture of keeping a healthy sense of humor (I think kid reactions are funny, too) and being sensitive towards others (your daughter, the guy who–unlike you–would have been offended, etc.). You’re a great dad and an excellent role model for kids who want to grow up to be kick-butt adults.

    Glad to be friends with you.

  9. I really want to thank you for sharing this… For so long now I’ve felt like “we’re in the clear,” he’s all “grown up” and the job’s done. But this post shows me that’s not true. I honestly cannot believe that happened… I mean I DO believe it, but it’s just so out of control! I know you’re kidding about running around and screaming. But I love the idea of addressing the kids directly. I think it would be great to ask the teacher for structured class time – it’s THAT important. I love what you said about “what if you weren’t you?” So true! I think this will be an excellent opportunity for some learning. It’s right here – in pre-K that if this isn’t addressed, the kids get the idea that this is appropriate – and the stage is set for bullying. Not bullying you because you’re an adult, but another kid who shows up with a limb difference, any difference – not to mention Claire!!! Be your kind and educational self, and please let us know what happens… :-./

    • My boyfriend has two arms one hand as well. He is SUPER freak out about people’s stares. He won’t go out without a jacket on and if this would have happened to him he would have got in the car and crie and never go there again. It’s sad really. :/ I wish he could let things go and not feel offended.

    • Thanks, Katie. I’ll post about how it went for sure. And I totally agree that it’s vital to teach them when they’re young! 🙂

  10. Please, please, please find some giant shark jaws to take and show the kids that you too once called someone a freak and “this is what happens to people who call people freaks.” Could be fun?

    In all seriousness, I think this is the most difficult aspect of dealing with these differences. Of course it’s not ME who has the difference, but at the mom and the person who primarily deals with it at this age it can be really, really tough to find that line between kindness and education–especially with young children who are essentially still innocent at that age and are only starting to learn–but also knowing when to step up and tell them they’re being rude and they need to go away. But of course being a DAD to their classmate, you have the extra pressure of wanting to do what’s best for your daughter as well. Good luck friend! I’m sure you’ll do well.

  11. my little boy is only 3 and he has been gawked at, laughed at, and shunned because of his right little arm (no hand) – he has his left arm/hand. and one of my proudest moment as a mom was hearing my daughter stand up for her brother during “Little Sibs” day at her Kindergarten…I’m so thankful we empowered her to have a strong voice for her brother and I hope he models her example. She told the kid that said “oh man! he’s only got ONE ARM!” … “that’s rude because you are hurting his feelings” and when they asked “why is he like that?” she said, “Because that’s just the way God made him when he was born and he can do anything we can.” Thank you for helping to educate your daughter’s classmates too. Obviously, kids are curious, but I do feel like parents have failed greatly in teaching their children how to accept others and how to be curious without opening their mouths. 🙂 Perhaps a hand-out that goes home to Mom/Dad would be appropriate as well. 🙂

  12. http://meganwickersham.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/2797/


    I’ve been following your blog since we got our referral to adopt our son nearly one year ago. He has a limb difference as well, and so I immediately began searching out information and resources.

    He joined our family in January, is completely awesome and perfect, and had blessed us in SO many ways.

    We had an encounter a few months ago somewhat similar to yours, and I posted about it here. http://meganwickersham.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/2797/

    I don’t know if you’ll have time to read the whole post, but I do want to share this part with you:
    “From the beginning, Mark and I have hoped and prayed that the Lord would prepare Josiah to be an emotionally resilient child. We have hoped that his personality would be such that he’d be able to deflect such encounters, handling them with humor and confidence. After that morning, I realize I also need to pray that he would be able to respond to unkindness with grace, forgiveness, and humility, too.

    Today I’ve been reminded of a moment soon after we’d accepted Josiah’s referral. I remember thinking that I really didn’t want his identity to be defined by his difference. I thought about how we could best equip him. I thought about how I could protect him. I wanted to do all I could as his mother to make his missing hand a “non-issue.” I didn’t want it to determine or shape him.

    As my thoughts drifted, I felt the Lord reel them back in.

    “You let ME decide how I will shape my people.”

    So it is here where my heart lands tonight. I want to equip Josiah to be resilient for the encounters ahead he’ll need to brave on his own. And until then, I will protect him as best I can from unnecessary cruelty and pain. And I truly believe that missing a left hand will be a non-issue in most ways, on most days. Certainly, it will not define him.

    And yet, I must believe and trust that the Lord will use this in his life to shape him . . . for his purposes. For good.”
    You have embodied the attitude and spirit I hope our son will be able to have one day, and though I don’t know you, as I read your posts I can sense that the Lord has used your limb difference as a part of his “shaping for good” . . . As I re-read my post and reflect on my own prayers for our son, it stands out to me that the very things I pray for my him are the things you have displayed through this encounter, and are the spirit of your blog in general (humor, confidence, grace, forgiveness, and humility.

    Thank you for your example, Ryan.
    And, though your heart must ache to see your daughter navigate tough things, too . . . I know the Lord can and will use it to “shape for good” in her life as well.

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