Say it with me: STRA-BIS-UH-MUS.
When I was a kid, I had strabisimus.
Lazy eye. Crossed eyes.
I also wore airbrushed cat t-shirts.
Want to know how to treat strabisimus? An eye patch. The idea is that the eye that is not covered will need to work harder and build up muscle strength to be able sit where it is supposed to in the eye instead of wandering about. The eye patch is like CrossFit for the uncovered eye.
Want to know how to treat cat t-shirt aficionado? No known treatment.
Eventually, I had surgery on both eyes to correct the condition and returned to a normal non-patch wearing childhood.
So, why does it even matter that I was cross eyed as a kid?
Because whether or not I was teased about having to wear an eye patch, being different was a part of my landscape growing up.
Different, like you know, special. Cool. Privileged. Right?
In Kindergarten, I remember leaving class to read to the special education kids. I had to leave because I was getting in trouble for talking to other kids during class time. I was talking during class time because I was bored. I was bored because I had already finished my work. Work that was too easy for me.
My parents assured me it was a privilege to get in extra reading and to help other kids and I believed them. Because when you are five you believe everything your parents tell you.
It’s crazy though, regardless of what we tell our kids and how much we reassure them – ideas still take root and for the cross eyed girl who read to the special education kids to keep her from getting in trouble in her own class, ideas were starting to stack up.
When I got to second grade, my parents had me evaluated to skip a grade. I was exceeding most of the curriculum for my grade level and continued to get in trouble for talking in my regular classes. Since gifted programs were few and far between at that time, I was cleared to skip third grade (thankfully, this was the 70’s and the solution to my trouble making. Today I would have an IEP and a prescription to Ritalin).
That summer, I hustled. I had to learn my multiplication table from 1 to 12 and I also had to learn cursive over my Summer break. I started fourth grade in the Fall. More reasons to believe I was different and more reasons to be special.
But special was starting to feel like a burden.
Where once special made me feel cool and privileged, now it was starting to feel different and weird. The idea that I was weird-special was starting to take root – not that anyone ever specifically said that to me but when you are the one always doing something different it makes a little mind think.
Mommies, we do our best to encourage, empower, set limits, build character, model and love our kids. We give high fives, hugs, kisses, snuggles, go to games, performances, open houses and art programs and still things fall through the cracks. Ideas still take root.
My parents supported me tirelessly. They listened to the screeching of the violin and cello, they cheered as I received participation award after participation award for sports I wasn’t any good at (and there were a lot of those), they cheered even louder when I finally found a sport I was good at and then they traveled all over the United States to cheer in different accents (just kidding, they still cheered in Texan). They listened to play by play’s after each and every game, practice or scrimmage and got an ear full of team/coach drama. Why? Because that is what parents do.
My parents weren’t perfect and neither are any of us, but they did everything they knew how to do to support me and make sure that ideas like being a weirdo didn’t take root.
And yet…ideas still take root.
You know what though? What they did do and what I hope to do too is equip my kids to figure some of this stuff out on their own. To give them the resources to figure out what amazing, talented, unique, creative, smart, kind, intuitive, caring, sensitive, sassy, challenging, curious little people that they are. To appreciate and accept the special, different and even weird aspects of who they are. And to realize that all of that is okay. All of that can be used for amazing, life changing things.
Like declaring “Feline Friday’s” where they can wear a different cat t-shirt to they gym every Friday. I just did that!
And why? Because I’m a weirdo and I’m totally okay with that! My life was not supposed to be a series of perfect events. My life is a compilation of experiences that are mine – different, special, weird…whatever! My kids are beginning to collect experiences of their own and if there is one thing I hope to do as their Mommy it is to equip them with the knowledge of how sacred they are to me and their father, to the Creator of this Universe and to this world.
Because, CAT T-SHIRTS.
This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!
Categories: All The Rest