Girl Child has reached an interesting cross-roads in her growing-up years. Not-so-suddenly, I’m no longer the front line for explaining her birth defect. She’s taking the reigns.
Recently, at her Girl Scout troop meeting, the girls were playing “Two Truths And A Lie.” The leader and I were having a conversation a day or so later, and she relayed to me that Girl had a tough time coming up with the lie. (My little over-thinker. She comes by that honestly, by the way.) Susan also mentioned that she brought up her birth defect as one of her truths, but when pressed about it, shut down and withdrew. Girl Child apparently used the term “disease.” Immediately a few of the girls were all over it,
“Can I catch it?”
“Well, what is it?”
“Are you going to die?”
All open, curious questions being asked with no malicious intent.
She didn’t know what to do or say. While she’s always been comfortable with herself, she hasn’t had much practice telling people who ask about what’s up when she’s by herself. When she was four, it was as simple as, “I went to Disneyland and got a new ear!” And….cue Mommy.
So, I sat her down and we had a talk:
SM: Hey, honey, I understand you played Two Truths at your meeting, and you mentioned Atresia/Microtia as one of your truths.
GC: Yeah. I wasn’t sure what to say for my lie, though.
SM: I understand from Susan that you called Atresia/Microtia a disease. You know it’s not a disease?
GC: I didn’t know what else to call it.
SM: Well, hon, when people hear the word “disease” they think, “Chicken pox! Measles! Cancer!” and that’s not how I would describe you. You don’t have a disease, you were born with a birth defect.
GC: Should I call it that?
SM: If you’d like, but disease is probably not the word you want to use to describe your ear. Also, when you bring it up, people are going to be curious, just like the girls were. Be prepared to explain what it is so people don’t make up what it might be in their minds and start talking about you in a way you probably don’t want to be talked about. The more upfront you are, the better. You’ve pretty much always been comfortable with who you are, and it makes me so proud of you. Don’t stop now!
So, we did a little role-playing. Can I just say how HARD it is to hand over these reigns? Everything in me wants to put this part of her life in a bubble. However, she’s in the world, and she will have to own who she is and define herself as she grows. That bubble would stifle the things I love the most about her.