Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Shock a bird, build your kid's self-esteem?

Brody has 4 fingers on each hand. Well, now he has 6 fingers and two thumbs. I am over the moon happy about that. He looks at his hands - specifically his new thumbs - and tells me that they are "beautiful," and "perfect," as he has heard us say so many times.

He insists, however, that when he holds up his whole hand and all his fingers, that there are FIVE.

When I ask him, for example, if he wants one or two pieces of toast, he holds up all of his fingers on one hand and says "Five, mommy! I want five toast!"

Or when we practice counting to ten, he goes to his hand, and says "Five!"

What the hell do I do? So far, after lots of thought, I've come up with....nothing. I just let it be. I figure sooner or later he'll figure it out. And since it's okay to have 4 fingers, or 8 or 11 or 2, what's the big deal. But should we be discussing this? Ignoring it? Save it for later? Don't ask, don't tell? I don't know. But it's factually inaccurate.

This quandary led me to buy this book. Building self-esteem for, as we say, differently limbed children.

I still hate all these labels I see everywhere. Although I can live with differently limbed. I made that one up based on children with a limb difference that this organization - whose picnic we are attending in August - gave me.

For example, I hate describing Brody or other kids as special - because we all are. I don't really enjoy differently abled - because we all are. I hate handicapped - because we all are in one way or another. But I hate these labels not just for the technical inaccuracies, but mostly I hate them because they are associated with negative implications or inferior inferences. And Brody - and every other person - does not deserve that lot in life. Maybe those associations are all in my head, but they still exist for me.

But it's also that the judgment with these labels - it is not friendly or nice; it's condescending, pure and simple. I detest condescension.

I like limb difference because it's factually accurate and nothing more.

Which leads me to Brody and the five. Do I emphasize it? I have in the past and I think I was wrong. I made a guy in a Red Robin costume jump in the restaurant when, one night at dinner, the giant bird came to visit our table, and I said to Brody "Look! He's got three fingers and a thumb, just like you!" The bird jerked his considerable head to Brody's hands. I smiled. Brody loves that Red Robin bird.

Is that wrong? I want Brody to have positive experiences about his hands, but then I think that just emphasized the difference and maybe was negative? How much self esteem can a kid get from having hands like a big red bird mascot? Talk about grasping at straws.

I don't know.

But it was kind of fun to shock the bird.


AnonMom said...

Awww, I just love Brody.

SaRaH said...

I think the way you're handling it is THE way to handle it. Factually without giving it more power than it deserves. With my cleft palate, my mom didn't explain much to other people (say about my speech or eating issues) but she also didn't act as thought it wasn't there. It just was and so what. I heart Red Robin.

Robyn said...

I like limb difference. As you said, it's factual, to the point. Personally, I wouldn't push the "five vs four" thing. They're two, so of course they aren't going to say things correctly all the time. Rylie always says "1-2-3-6" even when there are 2 or 5 objects. He'll figure it out eventually. And I think it won't be a big deal!

Tracy said...

I think you gave me some food for thought. I never really think about how many fingers Maggie has. She too will tell you she has 5 fingers on her four finger hand. She even was smart enough to devise that if she starts with the number two that it will equal out to 5 by the time she gets to her pinky. Who said 2yr olds aren't smart? LOL.

Thanks for the title of that book. It looks cute and I think I may get it. I have been told by other moms that eventually they figure out their hands are different. Right now they don't know and don't have the ability to really sit and talk about it.