My husband took my kids to the park the other day. While they were there, there was one other boy with his mom.
If you don’t know, both of my boys have a very rare form of muscular dystrophy, and have a variety of medical equipment for each of them.
The boy at the park was wearing AFO’s, which are basically ankle/foot braces that go all the way up to just below your knees. (Both of my boys have AFO’s as well, but were not wearing them at the time).
My husband was watching the boy, but not in the way his mother understood. His mom shot my husband a look that I understand all too well. The “don’t stare at my child, leave us alone” look. See, where she thought my husband was watching her son out of judgment and rudeness, that wasn’t the case.
When we see a child who is wearing braces or in a wheelchair, or anything like that, we look because we understand. We look because we care. We see you and we understand.
When that mom saw my husband look at her child, she thought he was looking because of the differences. But he was looking because of the similarities. She had no way of knowing that.
This boy was older than my 2 boys, and my older son, my 4 year old, is usually pretty shy about going up to people.
But my son went up to this boy and simply said “I like your AFO’s”.
His mom shot my husband a very different look after she heard that. An “oh, I see…we are in the same boat” look. A thankful look, an apologetic look.
My son saw no difference in the boy wearing braces than any other child, and in fact, thought he was cooler because of it.
I have worked my ass off so that my boys don’t see the differences in the world, but the things that unite us. The boys mom (instinctually so) assumed that my family saw her son as different.
I understand every single part of this moms thoughts. Because I am that mom too. If both of my boys are out playing, and they both have their braces on…we’re going to get a lot of looks. It is uncomfortable.
But what we’re not going to get a lot of is people, especially not children, going up to them to compliment them on it.
I am so proud of my son for that simple act. This is his win. He did that on his own. But it makes me feel like maybe I am doing something right as a mom.
This felt like a big moment for me, and I know it was a big moment for the boys mom as well. If she never felt like there were people out there who see her, who see her son as equals instead of different…well, she knows now.
And I guarantee you, she’s feeling just the smallest bit less alone in this world.