When we first found out that Asher was a little person (or had our very strong suspicions), I went a little research crazy. I thought I was prepared for a baby, I thought I was prepared to raise a happy, and hopefully well adjusted boy or girl (as prepared as its possible to be, at least, which we all know – isn’t that prepared at all). But I felt absolutely clueless about how to raise a child with dwarfism. So I read, and read, and read, every resource, blog post, article or guidance I could find to try to help me know what to expect and how to handle what the future had for us. I kept thinking to myself – there are a lot of things that will need to be done differently, because Asher isn’t a normal baby.
Mom Mistake #1
I quickly learned that Asher IS a normal baby. Asher is just as normal as any other baby or child out there. Asher’s size is not average, but Asher is normal. And it is my job as his mother to always make sure he knows that dwarfism is not an abnormality. Public Service Announcement: the world is not divided up into normal children, and children with dwarfism. Dwarfism is something he has that affects his height. That is it. He is a normal baby that is not average in size. So the word "normal" has quickly disappeared from my vocabulary when it comes to talking about babies or children without dwarfism, and I have been quick to correct any family or friends that refer to other babies as normal.
So we just pretend like Asher is just like everyone else, right?
Mom Mistake #2
I spent a lot of time debating this internally and speaking with my husband about how we wanted to handle this aspect of raising Asher. A lot of the discussion started when my husband made a comment to family members about how he couldn’t wait for all of the amazing Halloween costumes our future had in store for us. Some family members reprimanded him immediately, saying that it was wrong to "make fun of him" like that and make a joke out of it, and he needed to feel like he was just like everyone else. Let me start off here with this quick point of clarification – my husband was NEVER at any point making fun of our child – all parents look forward to Halloween and the adorable costumes you get to dress your children up as, so why should we be any different? But it opened our eyes up to what was the right approach to take when raising Asher to help him be confident about who he is.
I spent several weeks mulling over the comments made by the family members – who each want nothing more than the best for Asher, and love him more than anything else in the world. And in my heart of hearts I came to the conclusion that I felt like they were wrong. Asher has a form of dwarfism. There is no denying that. And there is no point in pretending like he does not and not explaining to him, when the time comes, how that affects his body in ways average children are not affected. I kept coming back to the conclusion that while we could spend years pretending to Asher like he is "average" and exactly like everybody else, the world will not be so kind. There will be many times in his life that people will point, and stare, and other kids will say things that will be hurtful or mean, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes with every intention of making fun of him. And the best way that I can think to prepare my child for this is to raise him to know exactly who he is – exactly what makes him special and unique – and to be proud of who he is. In other words – this kid has to own it.
Now – I am well aware that not everyone will agree with me on this point. And believe me – I wish we lived in a world where I did not have to prepare my son for the bullies and the comments and the stares. But I can’t change the world – what I can do is raise my son to know exactly who he is, exactly how his difference affects him, and to be proud of that and know that he is loved beyond measure not despite his differences, but because of them. Dwarfism will not be the elephant in the room that no one talks about. Dwarfism is not who my son is – it is simply something he has. So we embrace it as an amazing and incredible thing, that makes our son special. I could not be prouder to be Asher’s mom and to see the person he becomes. And he will always know one thing above all:I would not change him for the world, but I would change the world for him.
So I am sure that the Mom Mistakes will continue to add up, and I will do everything in my power to continue to learn from them and adapt. And I have no qualms with broadcasting my mistakes to the world. Being a mom is hard. Being a mom to a child with special needs is hard. Wearing pants other than yoga pants is hard. Life is hard people – and all we can do is acknowledge our mistakes, grow from them, and become better for having made them.