Rachel has become hyper-aware of her little hand lately. As far as I know, there have been no ugly incidents with nosy kids or any discoveries of some coveted skill that absolutely must involve two hands. She has just become very, very aware that she is different. And she doesn't like that.
She mentions often that "I have a little hand". I just agree and tell her what a wonderful hand it is. At least every other day she asks "What if someone laughs at my hand?" We go through the list of possible responses to such an event over and over again. I see her trying to hide her hand in public, something she never used to do. And it makes me sad. Rachel's hand is different, but it is not a disability, it does not prevent her from participating in any part of life. But her perceptions of her hand can, and sometimes do, keep her from joining in. I know that some day she will see her hand as I do, as a unique and beloved part of her self. But right now, her hand just makes her different.
Earlier this week as Granny was driving Rae to school, Rachel announced "I am never going to be able to drive." Granny asked why. Rachel said "Because I have a little hand." Granny assured her that you only need one hand to drive and then drove all the way to school with only one hand on the wheel, just to prove it. Obviously, there are some big thoughts brewing in my girl's head...
This afternoon Poppy called from a local tennis tournament. He told us to come and join him. He's been watching our college team play when he noticed that a girl on the opposing team had a little hand much like Rachel's. He thought Rae might like to see that. We hopped in the car and drove over immediately. By the time we got there, the match was over so we wandered over to the girl with a hand difference and introduced ourselves. Rachel was struck mute by fascination and embarassment, but Chloe was kind and inviting. She told Rachel that she went to college and played tennis and drove a car and did everything else and that her little hand wasn't a problem. Rachel wouldn't say much, but she was soaking it all in. Chloe was exactly what Rachel needed right now. I hope seeing this big, confident, independent girl helps Rae.
I have long wished that Rachel had the chance to see other kids with limb differences. I am in contact with whole yahoo groups of parents whose kids have hand or arm or leg differences and I know there are thousands of kids out there facing the same fears Rae has. But she doesn't know that. We don't know any other kids who have hands that are different. As far as she knows, there is no on like her. And that isolation is so hard. Rachel's particular hand difference is very rare, occuring in 1 of every 40,000 births. Other hand differences are similarly rare. So in our little town, in our sparsely populated state, there are no play groups or support groups for kids with limb differences. But I wish there were. Rae needs to know she is not alone. And I can never convince her of that. So for now, we will have to rely on chance encounters like today. I hope we find other Chloes out there, so I can teach my daughter to be strong and confident and proud of her differences. After all, diversity is a beautiful thing.