Last week I told you about my daughter’s birthmark puzzle, her something different. This is my week for confession and to tell you about a camp that changed her thinking and in turn will impact her life. Ok, and my thinking changed too.
She sits in my lap and we look at pictures from camp. There are so many things I want to say. So many questions I want to ask. Who are these kids? Why are they at camp? What qualified them to be there? When I look at the faces, I see such happiness. But I keep looking. Trying to see what puzzle pieces don’t fit in them. I want to point and ask questions. Why doesn’t she have hair? What’s on her arm? She looks fine, so what’s wrong with her? In that moment I become like every person that has ever asked the dreaded question.
The “What’s on your face?” question.
That is when I learned a big lesson. This was not a camp for kids to discuss skin issues, have lessons on skin care, or therapy for living with something different. It was a camp that invited kids who have skin disorders to find a safe place to have fun with others who had something in common with them. Every time I asked what was wrong with one of her new friends, I was reminding her that there was something different with her too.
She didn’t see the girl with spotted arms as a girl with spots on her arms, but her friend she whispered secrets to after lights out.
She didn’t ask her friends why they were at camp. She just played with them. Without questions. Without seeing them as someone with a disorder – a something different.
If I look at others with skin issues as having something different about them, I’m doing the same with her. That hit me – hard. So I stopped asking. I looked at each one as someone who made my daughter smile. Her new friends. I saw her new friends with different puzzle pieces that fit perfectly together.
I have to confess something else: I didn’t just ask her about the kids in the pictures, when I dropped her off at camp, I wanted to stare at the other kids. I wanted to know why each one was there. I was curious. But there was something more… I wanted to see something different in them. I wanted to see people with more struggles than we have. I didn’t – until we were leaving. A group of kids were just arriving. Covered from head to toe and wearing shields over their faces, they definitely had something different. You know what, they still smiled. Huge smiles. I left thankful that our struggles are so small, with a sprinkling of guilt for the selfishness of my thoughts. After we picked my daughter up from camp, we did talk about that group of kids. It was the only time my daughter gave us information about the kid’s skin issues. She explained it this way “Mom, you have food allergies. They have an allergy to the sun. It’s kinda the same.” Schooled by my daughter! Yes, we are all the same.
So… she went to a camp for kids with skin disorders and didn’t have lesson on skin care? What was the purpose??? The purpose went far deeper than lessons on skin care. Community and Normalcy. It was for kids who normally have struggles to just have fun – to just be kids with others who can relate.
The skin care lessons came from it being ok and normal to have a skin care routine. I’m sure the counselors slipped in comments about skin care. How do I know? My daughter (post-camp) doesn’t go outside without a sun hat and puts on sun screen like a pro. She also doesn’t fuss about her skin care routine. Just so you know, this is a complete turn-around!
At this point you are probably wondering what my daughter’s skin condition is. That answer will come next week. I’ve not shared it publicly before because I didn’t want people who know her to think of her differently. If people are going to think differently of her, they already do. This is my chance to bring awareness of what some people face. Oh, and she gave me permission. I will also tell you guys what she said about something in my last post. I made an error. (It also shows me her post-camp thinking and how she has changed!)
This is my chance to make a difference by showing how living with a “something different” doesn’t mean you have to live differently.
Build bridges in relationship with others mean not allowing your something different to set you apart as someone different. Always be who you are – unique and special. Let your identity define you without letting who you are be defined by your something different.