By Tammie Allegro
On the eve of her 7th birthday, my youngest daughter declared: “I don’t want to turn 7 tomorrow.” I was pretty surprised considering all my children ever think about is their next birthday. So I had to ask the follow up question: “Why not?” She quickly replied: “Because it is an odd number and I don’t want to be an odd number.” Most moms probably would have been taken aback by such a statement from a young child; not me. I am pretty used to such statements now. I have two daughters who both march to their own beat. They are unique in a million ways — the youngest more so than the oldest.
When my youngest daughter was only a year old, we couldn’t move her cup or plate of food anywhere away from where she had placed it. She would grab it with all her might and practically slam it exactly back where it “belonged.” When all the girls at school were picking pink as their favorite color and horses as their favorite animal, she would pick blue as her favorite color and snakes as her favorite animal. Last year, her backpack was a skunk, and she was a skunk for Halloween. You should have seen the looks she got from the little girls at the school harvest festival.
Once, she got in trouble at school for hitting a kid. When I interrogated her about her offense, she was ready with her rebuttal: “Mom, I didn’t hit him …I doked him.” The stories are endless; when most kids would be embarrassed to have to sit with the teacher, my little girl takes it as a reward and thrives in her new seating arrangement.
For a lot of her life, I have teetered between two places. Half of my life as her mom has been spent making apologies and trying to explain away her behavior. The other half has been spent enjoying the quirks that set her apart from everyone else. So many times, I have felt the need to explain my little princess and ended the story with, “Well, that’s just who she is.” I wish I could say all the stories are funny, but some are often embarrassing. She has the wit and sarcasm of an adult. She responds to questions with answers you just don’t expect to hear from a kid — especially one so young. It can be a huge challenge when you have to discipline her and she makes a comment that you can’t help but laugh at. I often have to send her to her room just to recover.
When I was young, I was often punished for being different. To this day, I refer to myself as a bad kid. I have no doubt that I was given this child to teach me that I wasn’t a bad kid; I was just different. I still feel different from most adults, but I am learning to embrace it. What I struggle with as a parent is how to help my daughter celebrate her uniqueness, while still helping her understand that conforming is sometimes a required part of life.
Those of you in the IG community know what it’s like to be an “odd number.” Being different is a way of life for you and your children who suffer from chronic illness. How do you help your children deal with being different? How do you handle being different?