My daughter was born with a rare craniofacial cleft, which left her with a deformed nasal bone and a missing nostril on one side of her nose. While we are extremely blessed in that her birth defect is completely cosmetic and will be corrected over the years with surgery, my heart goes out to the families that have children with visible differences that cannot be corrected. My husband and I have dealt with our fair share of inappropriate comments, from a nurse who told us our daughter would be beautiful after her surgery, to an intoxicated gentleman in the grocery store who asked us what was “wrong” with our child. In our eyes, our daughter is perfect in every way, but we cannot deny the fact that she does look different to the outside eye.
While we may have a more open perspective on the topic, I feel that most people can benefit from knowing how parents with unique children feel. Therefore, here is my heartfelt list of things parents with unique children want you to know:
We love our child for who they are.
Please do not feel bad for us. Our child is a blessing, regardless of their condition, and we do not need your pity. I’ve talked to several parents of children with different forms of outward facing uniqueness, from birth defects such as my child’s to Down Syndrome or other chromosomal disorders. Hands down, everyone I talked with agrees that the best thing a stranger can do if they must comment on our children is to say how beautiful they are. My daughter was born with beautifulblue eyes and flowing locks of curly brown hair. I love it when people compliment her on those features instead of commenting on her differences.
It’s okay to ask questions.
I love interacting with children when it comes to questions related to my daughter’s health. Children have an innocence and level of acceptance incomprehensible to adults. 9 times out of 10, children will ask about my daughter’s nose, simply because it looks different. I usually tell them that she was born that way or that this is how God made her, and they usually accept it and move on. Yet when adults ask me questions, they often don’t know if it’s okay to inquire. Yes, you may ask me questions, but please don’t overstep, or provide your opinions on our situation, specifically if I don’t know you.
Please don’t keep your children away from mine.
Some parents feel rude when their children ask questions about my daughter’s health and often will push their children away from my daughter to avoid what they would assume will be an awkward conversation. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it when a child asks their parent a question about my daughter’s appearance, and instead of shying them away, the parent brings the child to my daughter and says something like, “It looks like she was born that way. Isn’t she pretty? Do you want to play with her?” Yes, my child likes to play just like yours, and I applaud you for your responsible parenting and for teaching your child to be accepting of people’s differences.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to acknowledge is that we all are just people. Our daughter has feelings and likes and dislikes just like your child does, and my husband and I have emotions just like you. We try our best to be understanding of other’s curiosity, but when it comes down to it, the kindest thing you can do is treat our child like you would any other child.