The other day we were at my daughter Callie’s ballet studio, and Callie and I were tucked away from some of the kids. She was tired after a long day at school and was more comfortable leaning up against me while we waited for class to start. We could hear a few of the girls talking around the corner from us. They were animatedly talking about who was in their act.
“There’s Sarah and Gia and Samantha and Callie,” said one little girl.
“Who’s Callie?” asked another voice.
“You know, the girl with the prosthetic leg,” she answered.
I didn’t have to look up. I already knew what the look on Callie’s face would be. I already knew her shoulders would slump. I already knew she’d slap a reassuring smile on her face as my eyes met hers.
It’s such a hard place to be.
Yes, she has a prosthetic leg. Yes, that’s not “normal” in most of the world. Yes, that’s something that identifies her quickly.
Yes, that makes her stand out. Yes, I get that kids use the most literal descriptors they can. Yes, that sets her apart from others. Yes, that makes her unique.
And yes, I want her to embrace the heck out of it. Rock. That. Leg. Baby. Girl. I want her to be a role model, an advocate, a voice for inclusion. I want her to feel as if her prosthetic is her leg and is an extension of herself. I want her to be so proud and secure in herself that she can confidently own that piece of herself.
Because that’s what it is. A piece. But only a piece. Not all of her.
It’s not the only thing that makes her special or unique. There are so many other terms you could use to describe her. The girl with blue eyes and long blonde hair. The girl with glasses. The girl who likes horses and reading. The girl who gives great hugs. The girl who has a quiet laugh. The girl that loves animals. The girl who just started ballet dancing. The girl who is strong and brave, friendly and kind.
It’s a difficult balance at times. How do we balance wanting her to be secure with her differences but not defined by them? How do we make sure she’s comfortable in the skin she’s in but not only valued for the things that set her apart? How can we make sure she knows how unique she truly is, but also how she is just like everyone else?
I think it’s in teaching her that no one can do Callie better than Callie can. It’s always having conversations centered around comparison and the pitfalls of it. It’s reminding her that you can admire someone else’s beauty without questioning your own. It’s reminding her that flowers are beautiful, but so are sunsets — and those two are nothing alike. It’s teaching her that self-confidence is a superpower and one she should embrace daily. It’s teaching her that the magic, the joy, and the light she sees shining in others is shining in her too.
The world needs her magic. It’s something only she can share. Some of that magic is based on her hardships, but not all of it. The light that shines through the mosaic that is composed of all of the breaks, battles and scars she’s endured? That light? It’s all hers. Every last bit of it. And we’re trying to figure out how to let all of it shine.