September 7, 2012
Macy was worried about going to a new school. Earlier this summer she asked me what would happen if the kids "laughed at her". "Why on earth would anyone laugh at you Macy?", I asked without thinking. "You know Mom, because of my lip", she huffed back at me.
I forget sometimes, really almost all the time, that Macy's lip is different but she sure doesn't. It bothers her a lot. I'm not sure if something was said to her before we adopted her or if she simply made her own observations but Macy is acutely aware of her cleft lip.
Of course like any head over heals in love parent I only see her as beautiful...perfect in every way. But she sees scars and crookedness and difference. And trust me on this even at six years old (perhaps especially at six years old), "different" is not appreciated, at all.
Enter the mean streets of kindergarten.
By day freakin THREE Macy was in tears after being bombarded by her classmates with questions about her cleft lip. The questions were rude and insensitive and invasive and unfiltered because they too are six years old: they didn't know any better and were curious.
Over and over again her classmates asked, "why is your nose crooked?" and "why is your lip crooked". One girl said, "it looks like your face is smashed in." She wasn't trying to be hurtful. None of them were. It was just unfiltered frankness typical for a kindergartener.
And yet as understandable as that might be it still hurt Macy's feelings and left her already fragile self esteem in tatters.
Now I will be honest there was a small (completely irrational) part of me that wanted to round up these kids AND THEIR CLEARLY INCOMPETENT PARENTS and beat the ever lovin crap out of them. But I kept my crazy ass tiger mom caged and instead I wrote an email to her teacher and explained the situation.
Fortunately it seems Macy has a pretty awesome teacher because he was immediately responsive and willing to help. After first making sure Macy was comfortable with the plan we decided to have the teacher read the book "Lippy the Lion" to the kids and then have a conversation about cleft lip, differences and asking personal questions.
Macy left the next morning with her book confident the plan would work.
I was a worried mess.
But before she was even home from school I got this email from her teacher...
First, I want to thank you for bringing the children's questions about Macy's cleft lip to my attention. I didn't witness the conversations and I agree with you that the questions were probably asked with the most innocent of intentions. However, I can certainly see how these questions could make Macy feel upset or uncomfortable and it is important for me to be aware when such things occur.
Also, thank you for sending the book in Macy's backpack today. Macy introduced the book I read it to the class. Macy was confident and articulate when telling her classmates about cleft lips. She also took some time to show and explain the photos in the second section of the book to her classmates. I am certain that the confident, articulate way that she conducted herself would make you quite proud!
Perhaps a follow up discussion with the class would be helpful. I would also be very open to having you come in and talk with the class about cleft lips. My suggestion would be for us to sort of follow Macy's lead. In the first days of school I have observed Macy successfully making friends and participating in class. Based on what you see/hear from Macy when she gets home, what do you think? Was the story and discussion that we had today beneficial? Was that sufficient for now, or should we follow up soon with another discussion?
Honestly I could not have hoped for a better response.
Now the only thing left was to see how Macy felt about the experience.
Macy bounded off the bus with an ear to ear smile and jumped into my arms. She then recounted how she taught her classmates about cleft lips and how at the end the kids looked at the pictures of the kids before and after surgery and said "wow, that's cool!". She was beaming with PRIDE.
And so was I.
Dart and I have had many conversations about raising girls and the special responsibilities dad's have to their daughters. Right or not our thought is that if a dad doesn't make his daughter feel beautiful it is possible no man ever will. This experience was a blow to Dart...a daddy who thinks his daughters are the most beautiful girls on the planet.
Moved by the experience he made this for his beautiful, beloved daughter...
And what was Macy's response to the video? Well she cried and said "I didn't know I was beautiful."