For the first time I had someone laugh at Lily. I wasn’t expecting it and it shocked and sickened me. I sat there, looking at my instragram page and saw those seemingly innocent letters: “lmfao”. I peeked at the user pic and I wanted to vomit. I knew once I clicked on the profile that I would be upset but I did it anyways just to confirm my suspicions. The entire feed was horrible, awful pictures making fun of people with disabilities and I felt a little like my innocence had been shattered. We live in a bubble where everyone we know loves Lily and had yet to experience anyone being anything except kind, loving and supportive. And now there was this person, laughing at my child – my child who has worked so hard and overcome so much and still spends all of her days smiling and giggling. So, because it’s the internet and I was angry, I typed a quick angry response and blocked them. For a moment I was happy but it was fleeting as I realized I didn’t fix anything. I didn’t do anything except react angrily and that’s not the type of parent I want to be. Because sadly, this will probably happen again. While we live in our bubble and try to only let good, kind people into it, the world sometimes has other plans and there will be other people who sneak in: people who will say things without realizing the hurt or the harm they are causing, or people who do know and don’t care because they got to laugh for a minute. And I don’t want to be the parent who just reacts, I want to be the person who stays calm and tries to use that moment to not only remind Lily of how incredible and amazing and loved she is, but to show the rest of the world that as well. So, this time I’m a little too late but next time I will be better; next time I will get it right. Today though I can only say what I wish that I had and hope that it serves to remind me of the person I want to be.
Dear Sir (or Ma’am – I don’t want to make assumptions here),
The photo that you took the time to look at and laugh at today is of my daughter Lily. I really am sorry that you were not able to look past your own prejudice and see the incredible kid in that picture, because let me assure you, she is incredible. I wish that in your life you would have had more opportunities to get to know people with disabilities, because then perhaps you would already understand that they are, beyond anything else, people. My daughter is probably no different than you were as a child: she loves music, giggles when I pretend to fall down, and hates it when we make her eat green beans. But maybe she is a bit different: she’s had to work a little harder to be able to do those things, but frankly I think that makes her more like a superhero than a regular kid. Because really, think about it, is there anything that you have spent 3 years trying to learn, or did you give up when it got hard? Lily doesn’t give up.
Maybe your perception isn’t entirely your own fault, maybe it’s how you were raised, or your friends are the type of people who think it’s funny to laugh at something different. I honestly believe that you’re not a bad person. Maybe if we met in a different way, in a different time and a different place, we’d even be friends. Because that’s the thing, I don’t think that when someone makes fun of people with disabilities that they’re inherently mean-spirited, I just think that they haven’t had the chance to think otherwise. I really, truly believe that if you had the opportunity to get to know my daughter that you walk away thinking that she’s pretty awesome. I think that you would begin to look past her almond-shaped eyes and the fact that she’s only learning to stand up, and you would see her incredible smile and hear her giggle and everything I’m saying to you would sink in. I think that you would finally understand why your words and laughter were so hurtful and you would feel ashamed because you are generally not a hurtful person. And while that would, honestly, be somewhat satisfying for me to see, I hope that it would be just enough for you to see things a little differently. Because, like I’ve been trying to say to you all along, different isn’t bad, it’s incredible.