Last week Finley (my son, six years old) let me know that a girl in his class laughed at him for being short. Quite literally that simple. He said, “She just said, ‘You’re short! HAHA!'”.
Finley will always be short. Osteogenesis Imperfecta is a form of dwarfism. And while he may get to 5 feet tall, that would be a big deal. Being short is part of him and a part that I suspect will cause some frustration in life. Already kids pat him on the head and talk about how cute he is. Or how he’s like a baby. That fires my shit up. You think he’s a baby? That ‘baby’ has been doing math in his head and reading ALL THE WORDS since he was four, child. Step off, little miss. (PHEW simma downnah!)
But here was the clincher about that ‘you’re short’ comment. He laughed too. He said it was a joke and it WAS kind of funny. Also, the girl is “his friend” and so she wasn’t being mean… “right mom?'”
Oh my blood was bubbling like the gravy under spuds in a shepherd’s pie. There was SO MUCH for me to unpack here. First and foremost, my very quick anger that is just RIGHT there under the surface, as I am sure it is for so many other disability mama lions. We are a sharp breed of women with tempers taught as slingshots ready to fling a rock at anyone who hurts our kids. Do not mess.
Okay, so first actual thing: A kid laughed at your body, son. She made your body a joke. Your body is never a joke. We do not make open observations about the bodies of other people unless it is a compliment. And even then, make sure it is a neutral compliment that does not objectify others. Better yet, keep your yapper shut.
Second thing, your body is not a joke TO YOU SPECIFICALLY. Oh, my buddy. Your body is no joke. It is a hard-won body that we thought might never walk, that we prayed would feel no pain. It is a body I have kissed and smelled with delight. It is a body I have manipulated to the sound of your screams into a sturdy splint. It is a resilient, gorgeous piece of flesh and bone that I am in awe of daily. It heals and goes on.
It is no joke.
Now listen, I know. These kids are six. The idea that you cannot or should not openly mock someone’s body for whatever differences it has from yours is foreign. You think it, you say it – that is the kid code. Plus according to Finley this girl is his friend. The very fact that she is his friend means she’s not making fun of him… right?
And that’s where I get stuck. I do not know. And I know that “You’re short! haha!” is the least of my worries for the mockery he might endure from his peers’ witty, young minds. But I want this to be taught to my child and yours. Because if a well-bred presidential candidate never learned that we don’t openly judge, mock and touch bodies that aren’t ours, I can surmise that many other children also did not.
We all need to remind our kids that other people’s bodies are just that… other people’s. We also need to remind our kids that their own bodies are beautiful and deserve respect. Regardless of how they look or how they are different. Respect yourself enough to call it when something is not funny. When someone talks about you or your body in a dismissive way, know that person might not have cruel intentions, but tell them what you will not stand for. Have pride in your body and know that no one is 100% happy with their own.
It seems like it should be easy, but I know it is not. I know that my reaction to this comment from his friend was surprising to Finley. I could see his confusion. But I think that deep down he knew it didn’t feel good and he wanted to know my opinion on the topic. Which is why I think he mentioned it at all.