“I Told Him It’s Okay to Be Different”

by Jen Lee Reeves on January 23, 2014 · 11 comments

in 2014, School

My entire goal as Jordan’s mom is to help arm her with the strength to grow old without pain and have the ability to stand tall and deal with people who may not say nice things about her difference. For years, she has shown how she lets little comments and stares slide. She does not dwell on kids who might say mean things here and there. But when the bullying gets bad, she knows to complain. When it happens a lot, she tells Randy and me. After talking to her over the long weekend, we have a bully who won’t quit.

She’s told him time and time again, “It’s okay to be different!”

I told her I think it’s actually really cool to be different. And I’m SO proud of her for saying kind words when he is so focused on mean words. But sometimes, some people just do not want to hear what makes sense. They want to say what is mean. And that’s really sad.

Jordan agreed with me, but the hard part is every time she tries to talk sense to the boy, he just keeps saying words that hurt. Most of the time, Jordan doesn’t let the mean comments hurt. But when it happens too often, no matter what you do to ignore, it starts to hurt. And when it started to hurt, she (thank goodness) talked to me.

We talked to Jordan’s teacher and she made sure the playground helpers were made aware of our problem. She’s also making sure Jordan is never purposefully close to the child when they are in the classroom or walking in the hallways. Jordan says she noticed how there’s more physical distance in class. It helps her feel better. It’s hard knowing there is a child at school who is so deeply sad, he feeds off of any kind of attention. He knows negativity catches attention quickly, so he uses it more than kindness. I wish I could hug him if I knew it would help.

Mean people happen. Taking time to help Jordan know the adults around her will support her should help her feel safer. But we’re getting to an age where just telling a child to stop being mean may not help. And even if you tell your child to ignore a mean person, it doesn’t mean those words won’t start cutting. I hope the efforts we’ve put forth at Jordan’s school will help ease the pain and continue to make school one of her happiest and safest places.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

maria January 23, 2014 at 6:39 am

Excellent post. Knowing we can arm our kids with tools they can use to help them navigate the world is a great lesson. Sometimes even the parents are afraid to confront the issue for fear of reprisals both for our child and ourselves. Good for you and good for Jordan for speaking up.

Cathy Chester January 23, 2014 at 6:46 am

Yes, mean people happen every day. We even have bullying as adults. You are doing right by Jordan (my son’s name!) and that your advice will always remain with her. The love she gets at home is the most important thing in the world.

Bullies as most likely being bullied at home or somewhere else. Education is key. Love is everything.

Jen Lee Reeves January 23, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Thanks Cathy and Maria! I keep writing about the not-fun stuff to help other families know it’s best to deal with all of these challenges head-on. *And* make sure our kids know home is a safe place that is super supportive.

Maria Mazzola January 23, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Love this!!! I am a 26 year old woman with radial aplasia and no thumbs on both arms. You are sending your daughter an awesome message and thats exactly what my parents did with me. This morning I went to talk with the first graders at the elementary school that I went to. (same 1st grade teacher I had) The class had been discussing differences and acceptance the day before. I am pretty sure the teacher had told them that I was different. It was so great to talk to these kids and have them ask me questions. I think its really important for young children to not only talk about differences but to see them and be able to talk and ask questions because children are naturally curious. Do you know if your daughters schools talks about differences and acceptance? If not maybe its something you can bring up with the school. It is such an important thing and I do not think that it is taught enough in school and thats why there is so much bullying that goes on. Your a wonderful parent and your daughter is beautiful!

Jen Lee Reeves January 23, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Thank you so much, Marla. Our school is pretty wonderful. It happens to be the school where they house the cochlear implant program in our district, so there are a lot of kids with ways to be proud and unique. It’s kind of a part of the culture. But even when it’s a bit of the culture, there are still kids who need to act out and pick on things that are easy to pick on. It just finally hit a nerve with Jordan. And she’s allowed to be annoyed and speak up. I’m just so glad she did!

Cindy Jobe January 23, 2014 at 6:35 pm

I’m proud of Jordan’s self confidence and ability to speak up for herself at such a tender age. When she didn’t get the results that she deserved, she knew it was time to get help from an adult. Many people could learn from her actions! Kudos to you, Jen and Randy, for providing Jordan with the tools of “what to do when…”, right from the start. It’s obvious that Jordan is comfortable in her own skin, and that’s wonderful! I love her spunk!

Jen Lee Reeves January 24, 2014 at 1:00 am

Thanks so much, Cindy!

Erika March 18, 2014 at 2:54 pm

I found your site after stumbling around on the internet (I’m a college student studying biomedical engineering and I’m really interested in prosthetics so I’m always following links to sites like yours). I don’t usually comment on blogs but I really liked this post… Jordan is such a sweetheart and it’s so great to hear about kids dealing with bullying in healthy and productive ways. And I just love the picture of her you have in this post… what a great kid, I hope she keeps this positive attitude for the rest of her life! Thanks for the great reading material.

Jen Lee Reeves March 19, 2014 at 6:59 am

Thanks, Erika!

Jaimie Amerman July 1, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Wow thank you. It helps so much to read your story I struggle with my little guy missing his arm. As a mom I dont want him to hurt or be made fun of. I dont know if I can handle the question people are going to ask.

Jen Lee Reeves July 2, 2014 at 10:58 pm

Jaimie – I know you can do it. It’s kind of one of those things where you know you’re the parent and you kind of have to take a deep breath and jump. I know I calmly and thoughtfully offer a calm reaction and education when I can to show Jordan that questions and staring isn’t a big deal. And really, it isn’t a big deal. What is SO much more important is knowing everything is okay and you and your son can do it all. Everything and anything is possible. And with a positive attitude, people will see you and your family functioning like any other family. And if they need to stare, then stare. Let them learn how typical your family can be with one or two hands. Hang in there. I often say that the more milestones Jordan hit, the more everything seemed okay. Please email me if you need to talk more: jen [at] bornjustright.com

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