Like many children, I was bullied and teased throughout my school years. I was profoundly deaf in one ear, my legs twisted in instead of out so I walked funny, I had severe permanent skin depigmentation on my neck, chest, and stomach, and I had to wear very strong glasses. Looking back, I also had sensory issues that would have been labeled if I were a child today. Apparently, I was different from all the other kids, and they made sure to tell me about it.
But, my parents worked hard to make sure I never felt different. The things that could have been considered impediments were just a part of who I was. My parents constantly encouraged me that I will always have something worthwhile to offer, no matter what anyone else says. That everyone has a special gift or talent to share with the world. They inspired me to find the things I could do, instead of focusing on the things I couldn’t do.
My parents always encouraged me in whatever activities I wanted to undertake. I had a hard time running for any distance, but baseball became my passion from a young age. I would spend hours poring over statistic books and sports magazines and watching my favorite Major League Baseball team play. I struggled with handwriting and anything that required fine motor skills, but exceled in spelling, eventually reaching the State Spelling Bee twice. My single sided deafness made it hard to play group games on the school playground because it was too noisy to hear, but in carving out a quiet place, I was able to have meaningful conversations with kids who would later become lifelong friends.
My parents told me I was enough, over and over, day after day, even when I didn’t feel like it. They made me feel like I was enough by always encouraging me to find my strengths and offering praise when I improved in any area I struggled in, however insignificant a gain.
Fast forward, I’m all grown up and now the mommy of a precious little boy who is profoundly deaf in both ears and also has severe sensory processing disorder that impacts our everyday life. I desperately want to give him the same gift that my parents gave me. The gift of enough. I want him to feel loved, talented, confident, and full of worth. Even–no, especially–when he realizes that he may be a little different than other kids.
I want to help him find the things that he will excel in, the things that will bring him a sense of accomplishment, and help him focus on those, while instilling in him the courage and tenacity to try to improve in the areas where he is challenged. His limitations can be turned into assets if he has the right frame of mind. He has so very much to offer this world, and I never want him to forget it just because his talents look different than someone else’s.
Despite any limitations that seem to stand in our way, each one of us has some unique and special gift or talent to offer, no matter what anyone else says.