Hand Stories

Rachel has become aware of her hands this summer.  Obviously, she's known about them since infancy but now she understands that her hands aren't like everyone else's.  She has realized that she is different.
There have been lots of hand incidents over the summer, some good and some pretty bad.  In June, we were at Katherine's soccer practice and Rachel was playing with a little girl about her age.  They'd been running around for 15 minutes or more when the other child noticed Rae's hand.  "What happened?" she asked.  Rachel glanced at me and answered "I born that way."  The little girls shrugged and they skipped off to look for bugs.  I was startled at first, and then proud.  That was the first time I had heard Rachel explain her hand by herself.  I had spoken for her many times, but now she could handle it herself.  That was a good day.

A few weeks later, Rachel and I were sitting in a summer class.  The teacher was distracted and there were too many kids and not enough adults and even Rachel looked a little daunted by the crowd.  A 4 year old boy at our table suddenly shouted "Hey! She has a little hand!"  Rachel clung to my arm.  I stepped in and told the boy the usual yes-she-does-she-was-born-that-way story.  But he wouldn't let it drop.  The kid kept trying to grab Rachel's hand, stared at her, asked endless questions.  I noticed that Rachel was hiding her hand, pulling it behind her back or wrapping it up in her dress.  My heart sank.  Rachel looked up at me and her eyes were full of tears.  I turned to the kid, moved so my face was at his level and firmly told him that it was NOT nice to stare or touch people and that I did not want to hear him say anything else about Rachel's hand.  He shut up.  After class Rachel and I talked.  She thought "that boy" was mean.  I tried to explain that he was just curious, but he had bad manners and was really annoying.  That was not a good day.

At China Camp Rachel met a little boy with a hand very much like hers.  She was SO excited!  She ran up to him at the hotel pool, held out her hands, and shouted "You have hand like me!  Same!"  She talked about that boy for days, always with a tone of awe.  I realized that although I know there are lots of people with hand differences, she didn't know.  She just thought she was alone with her hand.  Meeting that other child made her understand that she's not the only one and that was a big deal to her.  She's hold up her hands and say "I have one big hand and one little hand.  Just like that boy."  That was a really good day.

We are so used to Rachel's hands that these little incidents are startling sometimes.  We just think of her as "normal".  I'll admit that I dread the questions from other kids.  Sometimes they are so hard to deal with.  And we're traveling without a map.  No one exactly explained this part of parenting.  And, hard as it is, I have to step aside and let Rachel learn to deal with all the questions and stares.  This is the reality of her life.  So we'll move along and try to find our footing and discover ways to deal with the hand issue.  Rachel reminds me often that she is brave.  And she is.  Way braver than I am.  Today we made  books about Rachel's hands for her to take to daycare and preschool.  She loves them.  Maybe they will help.

Last week we were on a playground when some kids came over.  One little girl noticed Rachel's hand.  Rachel just said "Yup.  I got one big hand and one little hand.  Let's swing!"  And they did.  That was a good day.