Rachel asked me to trace her hands today. She likes to do this and can't do it herself - she can trace her "little" hand but not her more useful hand. After I finished Rae admired the outlines, especially the left one. "My little hand!" she crowed and then kissed it.
In the long years waiting for Rachel I used to adoption blogs and Waiting Child lists looking for someone who could be my child. I was always drawn to children with missing forearms or unusual hands. I had never heard of the term "limb difference", but I was intrigued by these children. So when we finally got Rachel's referral her special need seemed a perfect fit for us. We had a vague idea that some things would be difficult or maybe even impossible for her to do indepentently, but none of that really concerned us. We were sure she would be just fine. And she is.
A week or two after we'd heard about Rae, I was sitting in my classroom cutting out handprints for one of the endless preschool art projects featuring hands. I have always loved handprint art, but my concept of hands had suddenly changed. I wondered how we would handle projects like this with a child with only one typical hand. Would we use only her right hand? Use both hands, even if the results were not at all symmetrical and most obviously different? Avoid handprint projects all together? I leaned toward using both hands as they were, but was that too in-your-face? Would Rachel be bothered by her hands not matching everyone else's? I just didn't know.
Once Rachel came home, we didn't have time to ponder the implications of handprint art, but we did find ourselves learning to love her "little" hand. No, it doesn't work the same way her right hand does, but it is very useful in it's own way. In fact, it is amazing what that hand can do. She uses both hands to do pretty much everything any other kid does and then some. And her little hand does things that no other hand can do. It's a formidable weapon when pressed into someone's arm or leg or neck. It is the perfect spot to store stickers until you need them. It works well for carrying an extra roll of toilet paper. It it is perfectly delightlful to kiss or pretend to nibble in the little fingers. Rachel's hand is a part of her so we love it as much as we love her eyes or chubby legs or laugh.
I still hadn't resolved the handprint issue when Rachel went off to preschool. In fact, I'd pretty much forgotten that earlier internal debate about it. But when Rae brought home her first handprint project (a reindeer with one glorious antler and one stubby nub) I laughed out loud. Her teachers have also learned to celebrate her hands. And I love them for it. Rachel's handprint projects are instantly recognizable as hers.
In December, Rachel brought home a Christmas present for us. It was a little tray to hold milk and cookies for Santa. On it is a Santa with his long fingerprint beard. And then there is a very short, stubby, but impossible cute angel. It's a little hard to see, but here she is.