So, I heard the other day from a close near-relative that some kids have been laughing at Drew. Needless to say, I was pretty gob-smacked hearing the news. It was almost as if I heard the loud, metallic slice of the gauntlet followed by a dramatic suspense-movie track. My immediate reaction was “you liar!” I vaguely recall that denial is the first of the five stages of grief. But, I hated to admit that I could recognize the sincerity of this kid’s message.
Well, the second stage of grief according to the Kubler-Ross model is anger and it wasn’t too long before the phrase “snap some heads off” passed through my lips. It just didn’t make any sense to me. Drew has been around and in direct relationships with lots of kids and beyond innocent curiosity, never has a negative interaction ever occurred. I’ve always made it a point to take him to public places with lots of people in a feeble attempt to satisfy other kids’ curious looks and questions before Drew could recognize that he was different. How could this be?
I knew this day was coming, but I have to tell you that I was somewhat fooled by everybody’s reactions and abundant love for Drew, even complete strangers, that I thought maybe we would avoid this trap. Kids enjoy being around Drew and is constantly approached by new kids who are instantly attracted to him. Of course at first they are just curious, but they quickly see how normal Drew is in spite of his arms and legs that the TAR Syndrome issue is quickly forgotten. I thought maybe we would be lucky ones. Again, denial!
After some inquisitive questioning, I was extremely concerned. Did Drew see these other kids and their behavior? What was Drew’s reaction? What specifically is being said? I knew that Monday just wouldn’t come fast enough. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait the entire weekend as I happened upon a member of the MES staff and asked this person about what was going on and what was being said. It appears that the negative attention is centered around Drew’s “babyish” good looks. Kids have been, in not such a nice and cute way, referring to Drew as a “baby.” I’m sure that comments have gone beyond that. And, apparently, it’s happened so much that alternate plans have been made to get from the classroom to wherever they may be going.
I wonder exactly how long this has been going on because I recall back a few months ago that Drew reacted a little emotionally to a kid who said loudly (in a nice and cute manner) “Awww…look at the baby!” I was surprised to hear the emotion in Drew’s reaction, “I’m not a baby!” I didn’t think much about it at the time, but maybe that was a clue.
Thinking back, perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to use a stroller in the hallways to and from the playground, gym, etc. as I’m sure that didn’t help the “baby” perception. Hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it?
So, our course of action is to speak with the MES staff and determine their current plan to address this behavior. Because I will not accept that Drew’s happiness, confidence, comfort, determination and positive outlook decrease even a fraction. I need Drew to retain his outlook as his near future is going to be physically and emotionally exhausting for him and he needs to be as strong as possible.
I have always had a plan ready for the years in which Drew would be introduced to a new large group of kids in schools (i.e. moving to new school, graduating 5th and 8th grade, etc.) which includes having an inspirational guest speaker with similar life experiences come speak about their life and show kids that he, and Drew, can do great things just as any other kid. Nick Vujicic and Jessica Cox have both eased my fears about Drew’s life and would be great candidates. I was hoping to not have to resort to this so soon, but it may be required in the near future. In the meantime, I’m going to suggest that Drew, Nate and/or I visit each of the classes and introduce Drew, talk about Drew and his life, in place of a professional motivational speaker for now. Hopefully that will satisfy the other kids’ curiosities and enlighten them to how wonderful and charming Drew is!