We had been to a mini-MOPS meeting, which she hadn't been to in a few months because of random illnesses and previously scheduled doctor appointments. It wasn't the same teachers or layout as normal, but she still loved seeing all her friends and being around other kids and did SO great, something that never ceases to amaze me even after all these months of me leaving her there.
We had been to therapy, which she was SO excited about since we missed last week (random illnesses again.. story of our winter). She went with her therapists all by herself (big girl!), imitated all her sounds in speech (I heard.. like I said I wouldn't know first hand because she was all by herself) and did great with her other therapies as well.
We picked up chicken nuggets and french fries (her favorite) and I
We hadn't been to Open Gymnastics (basically an open gymnastics gym for kids to run crazy in for an hour and a half) for quite awhile. Since the little kids had both slept in that day and we were already in town for therapy I seized the opportunity and took them on a spontaneous trip there. Ella was SO excited and ran around on the mats, jumped on the trampoline and even jumped in the foam block pit, something she never would have considered doing a year ago. At one point she was clear across the gym from me, jumping with kids she didn't know, without a care in the world if I was by her side or not. So much progress!!
I had had a nice chat with the lady in charge, who is familiar with Ella's story, about how she is doing, and also another mom I had just met who had a son born very premature and had been taking him here weekly. She watched Ella and told me over and over how adorable she was (of course we were instant friends after that..) We swapped stories about doctors, our children's specialists, therapies, developmental milestones.. Maybe not a normal conversation for everyone, but for us it was.
We were all having a great time when it happened.
Ella was in the foam block pit and 2 little girls, probably 4 or 5 years old, were standing nearby. One of them looked at Ella and said to the other "That girl is creepy looking."
My heart jumped to my throat and my eyes widened.
"Yeah." The other looked at her and replied.
I swallowed hard and stared in shock not knowing what to say or what to do.
A few long seconds dragged by.
My beautiful girl looked at them and smiled. Then she started crawling toward them in an attempt to make new friends. She loves to do that.
The first girl looked at the other and said in an almost disgusted way, "She's coming closer to us."
That's when the mom, who was standing nearer to them than I, looked over at them and whispered to them for a few minutes. I have no way of knowing what she said but the girls didn't say another word.
I sat there, still staring, still in shock, still not entirely knowing what to do.
So, ignoring the very mature part of myself that wanted to inform those little girls that the two shades of pink they were wearing totally did not match and honestly I didn't think their pixie hair cut did anything flattering for their face shape, I did the only thing I could rightfully think of at that moment. When Ella crawled out of that foam pit I held her tight, kissed her head and told her she was the most beautiful little girl in the world. Then we went home, took naps, and made the chocolatiest, most peanut butteriest cookies I could think of and ate them together. Sometimes I guess that's all you can do.
I KNOW my daughter is beautiful. I know she has a beautiful heart. And a beautiful spirit. I don't need anyone else to validate that for me. She has so many people that think that and love and care for her unconditionally that it shouldn't matter in the least what a 4 year old girl I will probably never see again said in one single moment. But I would be lying if I said it didn't hurt. A lot. I've never thanked God so much before that Ella isn't even close to having the mental capacity to understand what they said.
I wish I could have done things a little differently. I wish I could have walked up to those girls after i heard their comment, smiled warmly at them and introduced Ella to them so they knew she had a name. I would have told them something about her, like that she loves to play with babies, so that they knew she was a little girl just like them. I would have answered any questions they had, like maybe why her eyes don't open all the way, in case that's what they thought made her look 'creepy.' The way it worked out I wasn't standing exactly near them. To avoid just yelling across the pit and into the busy gym full of screaming children I would have had to lean my pregnant belly over the edge of the foam pit, drag Hudson out of there, probably kicking and screaming, walk around the pit, past the mom, probably causing a panic attack in Ella if she thought I was walking away from her.. I really didn't want to cause a scene.
I don't think these girls were horrible, terrible, spoiled rotten bratty little no good kids. (Fine.. maybe I thought that just for a second. Or two..) And I don't think the mom was a snotty callous witch (Fine.. again. Maybe just for a second). I think what happened was just two little kids seeing someone who looked different than them and in their mind that was 'creepy' to them and a mom who was just as frozen in shock as I was.
If this ever happens to you, if your child ever says something like this to another-- first, please don't act like you didn't hear what your child just said while praying to Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus and all the angels and saints that the mother of the child didn't just hear what your sweet little Suzy said. Chances are if you heard it, she heard it. I can't say for certain that this particular mom heard what they said.. but I'm pretty sure. I can understand the level of mortification you would be on at that moment, but do not ignore the comment. Even though you might want to just melt into a puddle right then and there (which is ironic considering, even though that mom may very well have been a wonderfully nice lady, in that instant I started to imagine her black hair growing down to her waist, her skin taking on a green tint and I'm pretty sure if I would have thrown a bucket of water on her she really would have melted.. but anyways) it is SO SO important to say something. We have opportunities for teachable moments every day with our kids--this is one you need to take. And by not saying anything, you are still teaching them something whether you intended to or not. I do appreciate that the mom eventually did say something, however the absolute BEST thing she could have done was help her girls form a relationship with mine, exactly what I could/should have done had I been standing a little closer and done so without causing hysteria in both of my children.
I'm so used to the overwhelming love and support our family, friends and community have shown us that I just really haven't had many (any? possibly..) situations like this arise before. It might be the first, but unfortunately it probably won't be the last. *insert heart breaking..* Please help me in educating our children, teaching them how to interact with others different from them. Don't take the easy way out--stand up and do what you know is right, even when it might be incredibly difficult and hard and oh so uncomfortable. Please.. do it for Ella.