Below is an art project they did at Jack’s daycare – paint the kids’ hands and make two handprints so the eight fingers make eight legs for spiders. Jack’s spider is just like him, short a few digits. I had mixed feelings when I saw this project. I obviously don’t want them to not do projects like this because of Jack’s hand and I love that we have these unique art pieces and at the same time I’m reminded of the everyday things that will come up that will point out Jack’s limb difference. And despite how things could be so much worse for him (because this really will never hold him back at all – at least not physically), I still hate that he has this particular thing in his life, because again, we want the easiest path possible for our kids.
I’ve talked about Jack’s hand before and I want to reiterate I’m not ever sad and don’t sit around thinking about what he can’t do because I truly believe his possibilities are limitless. But I do want to talk about a few things that have been on my mind and heart with regard to his hand that the art project sort of brought to the surface.
A couple of weeks ago Liam was playing with a Mexican Small Drum, similar to the one pictured below, the kind where you spin the handle back and forth between your hands so the balls on the end of the strings hit the drum to make a rhythmic sound. After Liam was done with it, Jack picked it up and tried it out but couldn’t do it at first. He looked at me and said (in Jack speak), “I can’t do it, I need another hand.” As you can imagine, I felt the wind leave my sails. That was the first time he’d ever really acknowledged that his left hand was different from the right one. I immediately recovered and said, “No, you can do it, let me show you.” And I put it back in his hands and twisted it back and forth using the base of his little hand against the handle and it worked just great.
I was relating this story to friends and one of them asked, “Did it make you cry?” And it didn’t make me cry – I’m sure it could if I thought about it too much – but it was similar to what happened right after Jack was born. We had no idea when I was pregnant that his left hand was any different from his right hand so when he was born and the doctor laid him on me and we saw his hand for the first time there was a fleeting moment where I thought (and said aloud), “What is wrong with his hand?” And I truly hate, hate, hate that that will forever be my first thought when seeing my second-born, but it was. Immediately, my wonderful doctor quickly and calmly dismissed it and said something along the lines of, “Oh, he’s all right, that happens sometimes – it might have been an umbilical band [it wasn’t] – but he’s just fine.” And he was just fine and perfect. I will forever be grateful to her for that moment of assurance and peace because it has set my mind and my heart on track every moment since then. And I didn’t cry then, so how could I cry over these other moments – it’s all in how we react in the moment that will help set the tone for Jack, to teach him that, though he is different, it’s no big deal and he can’t let it get him down.
Another friend and I were talking about this and she asked if I thought Jack was sad about his hand. And the easy answer is not yet but I’m sure he will probably be frustrated by it in the future, and yes, sad. So we take the moments that come now and set the stage for the future, teaching him how to react until it is second nature. I hope we are teaching him to not hold himself back, to challenge himself when he’s faced with possible limitations. It’s just like with both boys, how we have always reacted neutrally when they have fallen down and don’t make a big deal out of these falls and it has taught them to brush the little spills off and to pop right back up, unphased (something that never ceases to amaze others who see it); this is what we are showing to Jack, when he thinks he can’t do something, he can try a different way and see if that works and if he feels sad about his hand, he can buck up and remember that everyone is different in one way or another. So far, so good. Though I should note that I do want to be careful that we aren’t dismissing valid feelings, because his hand will likely make him feel a whole variety of things that we will have to cope with and he needs to know that it’s also okay to have those feelings – but not to dwell on those that aren’t helpful.
And this has absolutely nothing to do with the above, but it’s just a cute story that happened with Jack. Often when the boys say, “I want [something].” I respond with, “Well, I want a million dollars. We don’t always get what we want.” This happened today when Jack asked to watch TV and a few minutes later he walked over to me and put his hands in mine and said, “Here’s a million dollars… can’t I watch TV now?” [I totally turned on the television.]