Rose #1 tonight told me that she wishes she knew what it was like to have 10 fingers. You see, Rose #1's left hand did not fully form in utero - she has a small palm, a thumb, and a fused fourth and fifth digit.
Now we have several stock responses, and even suggestions that aren't predicated by a question, for Rose #1 when she feels sad, or confused, about her "little fin." These are:
1: "You are perfect exactly the way you are." This is true to me, Rose #1's mom, but I pray that the repetition of the line helps Rose #1 to know it before I would have in her shoes. I remember knowing that I was OK in junior high, even high school, even though I wasn't petite, popular, etc. (I'm OK, You're OK - leftover 70's lingo.) Still didn't make me feel better, and I have all 10 fingers and 10 toes.
2. "It is OK to be sad that you are different. Everyone is different in some way." These go together, and they are also true. However, the more different you are, I surmise, the harder it is to come to terms with your difference. Maybe not - maybe it would just be harder for me. Maybe my daughter has unsuspected depths that will help her through the tough times, when kids laugh at her, and ask her questions, and she feels bad and different.
3. "It is OK to ask questions, but it is not OK to tease and be mean." This is a stock line that Rose #1 uses, has used, can use, as a defense when kids tease her about her hand.
But tonight I was stumped. I have never thought about how I should respond to the simple wish that Rose #1 expressed - to know what it is like to have 10 fingers. My response was inadequate, I am sure - I said something like, well, it would be different for you, since you are used to your little hand, and there's nothing you can't do - except maybe the monkey bars, and Dr. Van Heest said that is perfectly normal.
What should I have said? It is so hard to send your child into the world knowing that she will be seen as different, or wrong, or behind, or inadequate. I know that Rose #1 is smart as a whip, beautiful, friendly, fun, helpful and curious. Will other people take the time to know it?