Brody starts kindergarten in 12 days.
I'm dusting off the annual "Letter to parents", as I have dubbed it on my computer, to print and leave with the parents of his fellow kindergartners. I did not send the letter to the soccer parents, or the swim parents, but I think kindergarten - with a new school - is fair game.
It's funny how the letter changes over the years. That could probably tell something of me more than him. We went to the summer picnic of the Colorado UnLimbited group this past weekend. I think it's a good age for him to go - he's noticing his differences, and talking about them. As in, walking up to people and saying, "Look at my arm! See how long it is?" or, at a carnival, telling the guy running a game he wanted to play, "My arm isn't that straight." These comments are not in response to anything said to him. Luckily, so far everyone I've watched him say it to has acted nonplussed, and uninterested OR has said words to the effect of, "Wow, that's cool you get to be so different." Clearly this world is not the 1970's that I grew up in.
We were at the grocery store a few weeks ago, and Brody was in rare, entertaining form. He was riding on the end of the cart, hanging on while I pushed. He was commenting on how much he loved all the fruits and vegetables "MOMMY!!! Look! MUSHROOMS!!", and being my helper, and he'd drop the food into the basket with great flair and showmanship. We had people laughing at his antics within 5 minutes of our foray into the fruit section. And I had no fewer than 3 men talk to him or me. "Are you helping your mom?" etc. One guy asked, "How old is he?" I answered, "Almost 5," and he said, and Brody heard, "He is hysterical," and chuckling, walked past us. I looked at Brody and said, "Well, that was nice of that man," and Brody responded, "Yeah, and he didn't even see my arm!" What does that mean?
I digress. Can a 5 year old gain perspective? I don't know. But I can, and seeing the other kids and adults live so well with their limb differences at the UnLimbited functions certainly provides me confidence and hope.
Anyway, here's the letter. It seems really long to me now. I wrote it when I only had one child. (Ha! Maybe that's it.) What parts can I cut out? Help!
We’re writing this letter because, in the past, some of Brody's classmates have asked him questions like “What’s wrong with your arms?” We want to help everyone be comfortable with his limb difference.
Brody was born with bilateral radial hypoplasia: specifically, he was born without the radius bones in both forearms and without thumbs. Brody has had several surgeries to try to help straighten his arms (which do not like to grow straight) and to move his index fingers into thumb position. We are proud to say that he now has three fingers and one thumb on each hand. In an effort to satisfy natural curiosity, I'd like to tell you a little bit about Brody.
This is the way Brody was born. The doctors do not know how or why, but the latest research shows that Brody’s arms were probably growing this way approximately 35 days into the pregnancy. We’ve had luck explaining this easily to kids as, "That's the way Brody was born. His arms grew that way when he was in his mommy's tummy." Some children hear the physical explanation and go about their business without second thoughts. Sometimes, though, kids might want more details.
We’ve learned that the easiest way to help a child understand something like this is to remind them how we are all different from each other. We have had success talking with kids by pointing out the obvious differences: hair, eyes, glasses, height, skin color, size of feet, etc. The list is endless. It's also a good idea to explain that Brody’s arms are not broken, painful, shameful, sad or frightening. They are simply different.
While Brody’s arms and hands are unique, Brody doesn't consider them “special” and we do not refer to them as such. Sometimes children will also be concerned about how Brody will do certain things with his unique hands. I usually remind them that he does all the same things they do, just in different ways. Brody has never had radius bones and 10 fingers, so he learns to do everything with what he has.
Brody adapts easily. He feeds himself, likes drawing and playing catch, loves playing tennis, lacrosse and basketball, and wants to have sword fights on a daily basis. There are tasks he gets frustrated with but most of the time he takes challenges in stride and manages creatively.
We just wanted to let you know that we welcome conversation about our son and we look forward to any questions you or your children may have.