My 10-year-old daughter Anna is possessed with a bit of self-awareness beyond her age. She’s known that strangers stare at her for too long and speak slower in her presence than is necessary. Anna’s always shrugged this behavior off as just being another part of her daily routine. Tonight was the first time she ever sat down and talked to us about the uncomfortable feeling of having people she interacts with treat her differently. To her credit, Anna maintains herself with the two traits that I always asked God to grant her: dignity and aplomb.
Anna, as I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, lives with the lingering effects of Crouzon Syndrome, a genetic malformation of the cranium and face. She has a beautiful face, made by the Lord Himself and coaxed into its current shape with the help of surgeons. Annabanana has dual hearing aids, in colors and designs she chose herself. Often, she’ll wear her hair up and let them stand out like any other accoutrement of rebellious pre-teenage fashion. The child acts in plays, sings and is comfortable in her own skin. Maybe it’s a generalization, but a lot of adults aren’t comfortable in the body, or the life, they’ve been given. Part of her dignity and aplomb comes from that level of assurance she maintains, part from the sarcasm and sharpness she inherited from her family (hey, I never said that I was the sharpest guy in the shed. Maybe it skipped my generation). There is a quick assumption when people first meet Anna that she can’t talk. The truth is that she won’t talk to people who make her feel less than all that she already knows she is.
I often tell Anna about how her grandmother went to school with Stevie Wonder. The example is a good one, because it reminds Anna that she has several paths in life. She can choose the wide, straight highway of self-pity, or take the little road of living out all of the promise God put in front of her. I play a good old song like I Was Made To Love Her or Superstition and ask her to consider the path over obstacles that Stevie chose. Anna will. Anna knows what to do. With lots of love from us, she can stare right back at pity, shrug and ask “What are you looking at?”