Parents: What I Wish You Would Do

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As we enter the playground area, your child immediately points to mine, calling loudly “Mom, look at HER!”

You quickly hush him, calling him to you to quietly reprimand him.

You’re at the end of the same grocery store aisle when your child catches a glimpse at the baby in my cart and asks “why is that baby so red?”

You practically put your hand over his mouth to stop as much of the question as you can, while hurrying around the corner without looking back.

Your children freeze, staring open-mouthed at my daughter at the library, and you get a rising panic in your eyes as you try to distract them to look anywhere but.

I recognize all of this unfolding, nearly every day. I hear all of the questions, I glimpse all of the pointing out of the corner of my eye, I notice all of the whispered comments.

I hear you, and I see you, and I feel it all, deep within my heart. And it makes it worse when you then try to “hide” it from me, from us.

You’re embarrassed, and I understand that. But we’re both parents, trying to do our best, and we both love our kids fiercely. And when you try to hide these obvious conversations that are happening right in front of us, it feels like you’re hiding from our family. It feels like the small insignificant gap between us that your child has noticed has now grown into a wide-spanning canyon that no one wants to cross.

What I wish you would do?003 I wish you would invite us into these conversations about us.

I wish you would close that small gap by relating to us as you would to any other family on the playground, instead of making the gap bigger by treating us as unapproachable.

When your child points and tells you to look, I wish you would respond clearly, “Yes, look at that pretty little girl. It looks like she’s having so much fun playing, just like you are!”

When your child asks you “why is that baby so red?” or “why does she look like that?”, I wish you would answer honestly: “I’m not sure, but the way someone looks isn’t important. We all look different from each other, don’t we?”

I wish you would encourage your child to say hi and to ask my kids’ names.

I wish you would apologize without feeling ashamed if your child is offensive right in front of us: “I’m so sorry, we’re still learning how to ask questions respectfully.” It also goes a long way if you tack on: “Your daughter is so cute, how old is she?”

And above all, I wish you would talk about differences more often. I wish you would read to your child about differences, and I wish you would positively and naturally converse about various kinds of differences, from wheelchairs to birthmarks, from Down syndrome to ichthyosis, from racial differences to wearing glasses. Ultimately, I hope that our children learn that if they have questions about someone’s appearance, they can ask you later, privately, so that they don’t hurt anyone’s feelings – because, after all, how we treat each other is much more important than how someone looks.cIMG_9550

So next time, I hope you don’t hide. I hope you invite us into your conversation. Instead of a steep divide that places our family on the other side with a “do not look at and do not talk to” sign, I’d rather be a positive opportunity for your child to learn how to respect and appreciate physical differences.

My book, A Different Beautiful, is now available for order!

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110 thoughts on “Parents: What I Wish You Would Do

  • June 22, 2015 at 6:19 am
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    And that’s why you have a blog. Powerful, powerful post. I hope this enlightens, and helps those who truly don’t know what to do or say.

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    • June 30, 2015 at 11:14 am
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      Yes, it sure did! I have definitely had those moments (the mom trying to quietly answer my kids’ loud questions), knowing that he was heard, and wondering what to do that would answer his question and also help to heal the wound we just caused…but I’ve never figured it out. Unfortunately, I have always done the hush and move on solution. This is so very, very helpful! Thank you for educating me and offering solutions for handling such situations with grace and compassion.

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      • July 11, 2015 at 1:06 am
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        My mom had this. And also two brothers had it also. Tough times they had. But lived good lives.

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  • June 22, 2015 at 6:19 am
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    Look up Robert Hoge, an Australian writer who is very successful. He was born with some deformalities and talks about owning the word ‘ugly’, which was what he was called a lot as a child. He’s very empowering to those in society that look different. He’s about to release a children’s book about Looking different.

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  • June 22, 2015 at 6:41 am
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    Courtney, you always manage to post insightful things at the relevant time! Talking about differences, accepting that we are different without the difference being “wrong”, tolerance, kindness, love. After last week, it seems we need more of this… sadly.

    I always talk to my children positively about differences. We *need* all of our differences to make the world go round.

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    • June 22, 2015 at 2:03 pm
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      Thank you Rachel 🙂

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  • June 22, 2015 at 6:45 am
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    Thanks so much for being honest and telling us what you need. As parents we don’t know how to handle those situations but it is really helpful to hear what you need and how to handle this to better equip our children to love and accept ALL Gods precious children.

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  • June 22, 2015 at 7:47 am
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    I have always tried to incorporate my children and grandchildrens concerns into the current situation. When they would ask about wheelchairs I would tell them that they had fancy wheels to help them get around. I would allow them to approach the person in question and say hi. My oldest Daughter had a dark skinned Minister at church when she was younger. The neighbor would take her to sunday school or bible school, so that her Father and I had no idea that this Minister was DARK skinned, maybe from Africa. Not once had she ever mentioned this to us, as this wasn’t important to her. I know from your title of this article that you just wished that looks weren’t so important to so many. I think you are a great Mom taking your daughter out and living life like all the other kids, the best that you can. Have a great day!

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  • June 22, 2015 at 8:04 am
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    Well said. I’m truly sorry you have to go through anything like that. Just living day today and getting everything done with lack of sleep because you have two children is enough. Add all the daily mandatory healthy living duties you all preform on top of everything else, I can’t even imagine. You speak very well & explain things excellently thank you very much for letting me into your life!

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    • June 22, 2015 at 2:02 pm
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      Thank you so much!

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  • June 22, 2015 at 8:08 am
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    Hello..my 19mo Kenile Die is effected with Ichthyosis …reading your view has blessed me a lot.thank God for the wonderful,wise insights on things.Love to Brenna ♡

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    • June 22, 2015 at 8:10 am
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      Zoe…not ‘die’.the autocorrect thingy lol

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  • June 22, 2015 at 8:22 am
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    I’m going to share this, because you have explained how to handle this with your children in a very simple way. Adults, too, are sometimes guilty of this. Thanks for letting us into your life. Your family is wonderful role model for all differnces

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  • June 22, 2015 at 8:27 am
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    this article hits so close to home for us. My daughter had a brain injury at birth and now has HIE, which causes her to have seizures and a feeding tube. I’ve noticed that there obviously aren’t very many conversations about differences and how to ask questions politely going on in homes these days. Children walk right up to us and ask “what’s wrong with her?” I don’t mind helping kids find the answers they are looking for but its the parents and other adults I have issues with. I find it difficult to be understanding to an adult that asks the question “what’s wrong with her?”. Yesterday at CHURCH, someone asked if she would LIVE! How do you respond to that? “I certainly hope so!” It’s hard to be the ones who have to teach all the time. I’m sorry you and your family have to deal with this kind of behavior. Hopefully, we can make a difference and help people learn to ask questions the right way. Brenna is beautiful! That smile lights up my Facebook page everyday and I love it! Connor is pretty darned cute himself 😉

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    • June 22, 2015 at 2:02 pm
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      Yes, sometimes adults are truly awful. I do think the good experiences far outweigh the bad… but when the negative ones happen close together, it’s easy to feel discouraged. I’m so glad this post was helpful for you 🙂

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  • June 22, 2015 at 8:34 am
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    I am looking forward to the opportunity to use your suggestions in real life! It is my hope and prayer that my little Homer will have an open heart when he encounters other children making their way through the world just like he is, regardless of differences that may, heck…WILL! exist. Variety is, after all, the spice of life. <3 Blessings to Brenna <3

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    • June 22, 2015 at 2:00 pm
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      Yes it is… and that is my hope for my own kids as well!

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  • June 22, 2015 at 8:37 am
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    I came across your page after I had just read and learned about Harlequin Ichthyosis. I am a new parent and this entry you wrote is so helpful for me when my child will be able to communicate and play with other children. It helps me to know how to respond when my child sees someone that is different from her. I think it is very important to teach children that everyone is different and unique. You would think these things would be easy to teach your children but you had some good suggestions on how to teach them and respond that I hadn’t thought about. I appreciate that and will remember these as I teach my child. Thanks for sharing y’alls story!

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    • June 22, 2015 at 2:00 pm
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      Thank you for reading and learning about Brenna’s condition, and for your kind words!

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  • June 22, 2015 at 10:16 am
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    I love this. Thanks for sharing.

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  • June 22, 2015 at 10:37 am
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    God bless your family. What you’ve said is extremely helpful for ANYONE to learn. My son is grown and I know we encountered similar issues when he was young. One that comes to mind was in grocery store. A young man had face piercings. My little boy yelled “mom that guy has a necklace on his face!!” And I was so embarrassed. I wish I had known something to explain BETTER to him at that time. How EVERYONE looks different. What a great response!!!
    Another point is -I was always glad there were kids in my sons classrooms who had disabilities. Wheelchair or whatever. My son grew up with those “differences” as the “norm”. He had a much better experience because of it and is a much better person than I was. ( I was very sheltered in a private school and before the no child left behind act) So for those opportunities he got to experience-I am grateful. He is such a good young man now. He doesn’t judge based on appearances -such as my generation may have. May God bless your BEAUTIFUL daughter and your family.

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    • June 22, 2015 at 1:59 pm
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      Thank you! I completely agree what you said about your child’s classroom too!

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  • June 22, 2015 at 10:44 am
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    Such a beautiful, BEAUTIFUL sentiment. And your family is just gorgeous, inside and out.

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  • June 22, 2015 at 11:51 am
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    Thanks for sharing. We all need reminders on how to react to all people! Whether handicapped(physically or mentally), short, tall, black, white. We are all different in some way, but still a human that should show love and compassion to other humans.

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  • June 22, 2015 at 12:56 pm
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    Thank you for this! My sister was born with a reddish purple birthmark from fingers to shoulder and onto her chest. Growing up, people would ask my mom if my sister had a koolaid stain (yes, really) or what had my mom done during pregnancy to cause such a hideous mark. One woman even went so far as to tell my mom she should keep the baby covered so people didn’t have to look at it! I didn’t understand why people were saying such mean things about “my baby”. Years later, I began working at a Center for Independent Living, and was shocked to find that people are still so uneducated about the fact that people with disabilities or any kind of perceived “difference” are still people, capable of living full, enriched lives. My son grew up around my office mates and clients and didn’t realize that some considered our friends to be different. I’m so thankful that he had the opportunity to get to know them and that he has no fear of or awkwardness around someone that is different than he is, knowing that we are ALL different in some way.

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    • June 22, 2015 at 1:48 pm
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      This is just beautiful, thank you for sharing! What a wonderful experience for your son as well.

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  • June 22, 2015 at 2:22 pm
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    thanks for sharing this! I am not going to lie there have definitely been times when I was the parent not knowing what to say and you have definitely provided some positive ways of handling.

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  • June 22, 2015 at 3:17 pm
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    I wish other parents felt as you do. I’ve been slammed so many times for trying to ask, for not looking away, for doing anything but flat out ignoring, that I don’t even try anymore. Sorry, but I’ve been burned too many times by hate filled parents snarling at me to risk coming up to a stranger and asking why their child looks different.

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    • June 23, 2015 at 2:30 am
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      I am mostly referencing children here. I really don’t encourage you as an adult to go up asking parents why their child looks the way they do, because it’s not really your business. Would you approach a “typical-looking person” to ask why they are black, or why they have such thick hair? Probably not. If you as an adult see someone who is different, please treat them as you would anyone else – meet their eyes and smile. Maybe say hi. My favorite encounters with people are when they treat Brenna as they would any other young child they see.

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  • June 22, 2015 at 4:50 pm
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    I hope that parents realize that, in shoo-ing their own children away when they ask these questions, they are really just reinforcing that differences are something they should separate themselves from, instead of bridge.

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  • June 22, 2015 at 8:02 pm
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    Hi There, I love your blog and have read it for years, but this post in particular affected me greatly and I feel I have to comment and respectfully point something out to you. You suggest in this post that we tell our kids that the way people look doesn’t matter AND that the child being stared at (commented on) is cute. In Brenna’s case, she is cute, adorable even, but in the case of my child, no one would use the word cute in reference to her. I am used to the way she looks, and she is beautiful to me, but I try to de-emphasize the focus on “cute” or “pretty” all together. Like the little boy in Wonder, my daughter looks different, but she is still a smart, sweet, funny and delightful person. But she is not cute and never will be.

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    • June 24, 2015 at 6:29 pm
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      Patty, I agree! When children are continually told they are pretty and cute and that other children are pretty and cute…devalues the time we spend encouraging them to value everyone and that looks do not matter. In think one of the saddest things to hear is when a child asks ” am I pretty?”

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    • June 26, 2015 at 7:40 am
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      Your comments, frankly, made me really sad. To me, being cute and pretty are a way of being, not a way of looking. When a child says something funny, we often describe it as “that was really cute.” It isn’t because that child is physically “perfect” but because of their joy, their humor, the way their eyes lit up, the ornery expression on their face, the love in our hearts. If you asked me if my friends are pretty, I would give a resounding YES. All of my friends are so pretty. My mom is so pretty. They might not like their noses, or extra baby weight, or whatever, but I don’t see that at all. I look at them through love and I think they’re the prettiest people I could imagine. When we love each other and open our hearts to each other and live through that love, we can see pretty and cute as a way of being and not a way of looking.

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      • June 26, 2015 at 8:11 pm
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        Courtney, I am so sorry that my comment made you sad! I meant no disrespect or criticism at all, only that the words “cute” and “pretty” have come to be loaded words to me since having my daughter. I much prefer words that aren’t about appearance like “sweet” or “smart”, but I agree with you 100 per cent about seeing the beauty in the people we love. My daughter is beautiful to me, and so are my sisters and friends, regardless of their physical imperfections. And you are a jewel of a person!

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        • June 27, 2015 at 5:24 pm
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          Patty- I completely understand, and I wasn’t upset by you but more just sad that you didn’t think your daughter was cute, because as I said, I believe that cute is a way of being. Different words mean different things to different people, and I completely see why you feel the way you do. I was just trying to explain my take on those words. I bet your daughter is amazing!

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          • July 1, 2015 at 5:12 pm
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            I do think my daughter is cute. I just meant, not one single person has ever called her that except for her father or me, or someone who sounds like she thinks the exact opposite, kind of an “oh my! What a cute little thing!” And it IS sad, but that’s just how it is. If you have ever read the blog “My Mary Cate,” my daughter’s condition is very similar to Apert’s Syndrome. Thank you again for bringing up this situation; it is a dialogue/discussion that needs to keep going on. This is something I deal with every day and I love that you never shy away from the difficult conversations!

          • July 3, 2015 at 5:01 am
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            Yes, Mary Cate’s mom Kerry and I are “online friends” 🙂 I follow several families affected by Apert online, and I truly think those kids are so cute! Thank you for reading, and for commenting and sharing your experiences 🙂

    • June 26, 2015 at 7:52 am
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      Also – I am talking about NOT living inside or outside of the box that society has created to tell us what is pretty, what is cute, what is beautiful. I’m talking about changing that. I’m talking about God’s version of beautiful, not society’s. I’m talking about looking at someone or something or an experience and saying “Society might not agree, but I think that’s BEAUTIFUL.”

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      • June 27, 2015 at 7:28 am
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        Isn’t that exactly what Patty is talking about with seeing her own daughter as beautiful even if others don’t? I feel like you’re jumping on anyone who doesn’t completely agree with what you said. Natalie above is obviously not going to ask a black person why they’re black or a person with thick hair why they have thick hair because those are extremely common things we see often. Your daughter’s condition is not very common right? Yes your daughter is a regular person and deserves to be treated as such, but I feel like the way you’re asking all strangers to react is to ignore that she has obvious physical differences caused by something that many don’t even know exists. I can see you wanting to protect your daughter from any negative experiences, however, the way you’re asking people to act around you and her seems like you’re missing out on spreading awareness of her condition and discouraging a child’s natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge.

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        • June 27, 2015 at 4:44 pm
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          I think you completely missed the point of my post – I am actually doing the opposite of discouraging natural childhood curiosity. I am asking parents to allow their kids to ask questions and to answer them honestly and frankly, rather than shushing and running away from us as is the tendency to do. Adults, on the other hand, should have that filter and that recognition of realizing that a person is a person and should be treated as such, regardless if you know why they look the way they do or not. I try to educate as much as I can, but it is exhausting. Sometimes we just want to be a family at a park, with the family next to us saying hi and smiling, without us having to explain over and over. It would also be really nice for my daughter to not constantly hear people talking about her skin, but instead talking about what grade she’s in and what kind of activities she likes – like any other child.

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          • June 27, 2015 at 7:15 pm
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            It just felt like not attempting to explain anything to them at the time and just saying that she looks different but looks aren’t important was, in a way, shutting down their curiousity, at least temporarily. However, I can’t pretend to know any better than you about this type of situation and I can understand you tiring of having to explain her condition and wanting people to treat her like the normal child she is, regardless.

  • June 22, 2015 at 8:59 pm
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    Thank you for your blog today. A friend of mine posted it, and I have reposted in kind. When I was 18, I met a wonderful young woman named Gwen who was born without arms. She was amazing in what she could do without prostheses (she tried them but didn’t like them). We were at a fair one day and two little girls came up to us, looking at Gwen. We said hi and smiled – they smiled back. Their mother came up, averting her eyes, apologized and dragged them off giving them heck. So sad that the mother took such a perfect learning opportunity from the girls. Hugs to you and your great family, and thanks again for sharing <3

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  • June 23, 2015 at 3:43 am
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    This post should be published as an article somewhere. This information needs to get into the world. People just don’t know; they would do differently if they knew better. I will do better because of you.

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  • June 23, 2015 at 5:38 am
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    FABULOUS post! THANK YOU for teaching us!

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  • June 23, 2015 at 7:29 am
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    My children are now adults but as they were growing I always tried to instill a sense of curiosity along with sensitivity. If they were introduced to someone who had something different about themselves, I encouraged them to ask questions or I would try to start a conversation with the individual or their parent(if it was a child).

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  • June 23, 2015 at 9:46 am
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    i understand you completely. My brother who is 17 years old know has a very rare form of ichthyosis. He is 17 and still get ting the looks, whispers, and even called names at school. It’s an awful thing! But my brother has the best personality and although his condition limits what he can do and how people look at him, he is the happiest most optimistic boy I know.

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  • June 23, 2015 at 9:55 am
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    Thank you so much for this blog! My son, who is now 29, was born without his right ulna and radias bones. His hand basically starts at his elbow. So many times, when he was a child, he was pointed at and stared at by other children, and yes, by adults too. Some would look at him/me sympathetically, which irritated me. My son was a “bigger” person than me. He would either ignore them, or just smile at them, and sometimes even strike up a conversation with them.
    Since he was 6 months old, he was surgically treated at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for crippled children. There, he saw so many children that were missing limbs, just like him. I would be so proud when he would play with them, or push them in their wheelchairs, not seeing their deformities, but meeting new friends. He learned acceptance there, of all types of individuals, not only in physical appearance, but personalties. If I could make one rule for parenting, I would have all parents take their children there to volunteer for playdates. It really changes your childs perspective of those who are “different”!

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  • June 23, 2015 at 11:22 am
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    I really loved that I ran across this post on my Facebook feed today. I followed Brennas story when you first started this blog and somehow I lost it. I’m loving catching up! She has grown soooo much! She is very beautiful and happy!

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  • June 23, 2015 at 11:27 am
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    This was a very beautifully written post and captures my feelings exactly. Thank you!

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  • June 23, 2015 at 12:36 pm
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    Very sweet article. Loved it! I have 4 kids. One has vitiligo. I notice the stares that she gets and it can be infuriating. But I have, from day one, taught her what to say when someone asks her what it is. My favorite moment like this was at my oldest son’s baseball game. A little boy came over and “hung out” with myself and my other kids. He asked what was on my daughter’s skin. I didn’t say anything hoping to find her able to handle it herself, which she did… sort of. I eventually jumped in to offer (probably) more info than was needed. At the point that I made it very light and used a no-big-deal tone of voice, my daughter jumped in and said, “My cousin says I am tye-dyed.” He sat for a moment, staring at her knees, and said, “Huh. I wish I was tye-dyed.” And that was that! I know not all encounter she has will be that easy and simple. But I truly believe I have to teach her how to be strong and resilient. Good luck to you and your sweet daughter!! xoxo

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    • June 26, 2015 at 7:11 am
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      Oh my gosh, I LOVE that! How sweet! That is just perfect 🙂

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  • June 23, 2015 at 2:34 pm
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    Thank you for writing this. As a parent I haven’t had the opportunity to address this with my children. They are all grown up know. I do how ever use your advice when out with my grandchildren. Thank you for your candidness.

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  • June 23, 2015 at 3:22 pm
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    I totally understand. As a parent of a child who is now an adult with cerebral palsy, I wish people would have asked me instead of staring as we walked past.

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  • June 23, 2015 at 3:36 pm
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    My niece also has ichthyosis and I can relate to this more than anyone I know. It’s sad that no one would ask and just simply make the assumption that because we didn’t take proper care of her she got burned. My family, we love her so much and we know its important to stay strong regardless of the “gap”. Thank you for this blog!

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  • June 23, 2015 at 4:06 pm
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    What a beautiful and poignant message. I came across your blog when a dear friend posted “To the Embarrassed Parent of the Child Pointing at My Daughter.” We’re expecting our little angel, Lily Lou, Labor Day weekend, and we learned during our 20 week ultrasound that she has a bilateral cleft lip and, in all likelihood, cleft palate as well. I have dreaded the same stares, the same heartbreaking words; and I’ve imagined so many times the conversations I hope I’ll have with little ones who don’t understand why my Lily looks or sounds different.
    Thank you again for sharing your heartfelt message with us!
    Best wishes,
    Michelle

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  • June 23, 2015 at 5:15 pm
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    Ran across your blog on one of my friend’s FB post. We have something in common and its uncommon, so I had to post to tell you this….. My daughter’s name is Brenna, too 🙂 God bless you and your precious Brenna!!!

    Jill and Brenna Wilkes

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  • June 23, 2015 at 8:15 pm
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    Our niece has icthiosis on just one side of her body. She is 28 yr old. Sadly, it was her parrots that hid, changed the subject when it was mentioned, and taught her to be embarrassed. I applaud your directness in managing the obvious.

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    • June 23, 2015 at 8:16 pm
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      Oops…parents not parrots. (Lol)

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  • June 24, 2015 at 9:04 am
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    This story touched my heart, no one realizes that kids are the most brutally honest. And parents laugh it off and say kids will be kids. No kids will learn from what the parent does. Your daughter is beautiful and probably has the biggest heart.

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  • June 24, 2015 at 9:46 am
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    Yes, you are truly blessed by Brenna. If we look close enough none of us are ” perfect” but we are all wonderfully made ! In today’s world people are looking for perfect white teeth, long glossy hair , perfect hourglass figure, and designer clothes . This is reinforced daily by the tv and tabloids . A pity because these shallow people miss out in the special people that God has blessed us with . My granddaughter was born with a ” mild case” (doctors words) of ichthyosis and has had a lot to deal with and I know the struggle you face .
    You are doing a great service because so little is known about this skin disorder. Physically challenged people are accepted on every level , but skin problem are still questioned

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  • June 24, 2015 at 12:30 pm
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    Thank you for posting this. It was a great read. I do not have children yet, but when I do I will definitely carry out this thinking. I have always wondered how a mother or child has felt when this situation arises. It’s as if we forget that emotions work both ways. I might be embarrassed, but how did my actions as an adult make you feel? Again, thank you for posting such wonderful words. I look forward to reading many more. 🙂

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  • June 24, 2015 at 1:10 pm
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    Loved this. So much good and helpful advice . Our son was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) last year and opted for Rotationplasty at his right leg. Consequently his foot is on backwards now after the surgery as his ankle has become his knee. This is a wonderful surgery but as a 12 year old he does get a lot of stares. I found your suggestions so helpful and loving. Thank you for posting this beautiful piece of writing to help us all be kinder toward one another.

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  • June 24, 2015 at 2:02 pm
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    Would you be offended if a parent brought their child over to you and asked about Brenna’s health issues?

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  • June 24, 2015 at 5:33 pm
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    I absolutely think your daughter is gorgeous before I read this blog my sister reposted I saw your daughter and she is breathtaking my first thoughts were this baby is one happy baby it’s important for people parents children to understand that there absolutely nothing wrong with your child or any other child that things happen at the end of the day as long as a child has a smile on their face that’s what really matter… People might gossip or stare but honestly those are the people that don’t understand what someone has gone through personally if that was my child I would honestly go up th each and every person and say ” my name is and this my daughter nice to meet you is there any a particular reason your looking at me and my child or is there a reason you rushed away from us or why your whisper to other about us???!!” Because honestly I don’t know you and I don’t judge you by your looks or what your wearing or how your child is obnoxious

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  • June 24, 2015 at 7:37 pm
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    This is the absolute best article I’ve read in a long time. I will reiterate all of this to my son tomorrow. Thank you thank you thank you!

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  • June 24, 2015 at 7:53 pm
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    Thank you for such a beautiful post! As an adult who grew up with a red/purple birthmark across my face/neck/chest I am all too familiar with the silent stares, the whispers, and the rude questions and comments. I wanted to say that your daughter is gorgeous and her personality shines through in her photos. If it helps at all, being “different” has made me a much stronger and more compassionate adult then I feel I would have been if I was “normal.” Sometimes being different can really be a blessing. My son is only 18 months, so just learning to talk, but your advice is so helpful. I want him to understand that everyone is different and thats OK. I had written an open letter to the parents of a little girl with a large birthmark on my blog with the reasons I feel now, as an adult, that my differences were much more for a blessing than a curse. I just wanted to share it so that you know that as hard as it is, and always will be, to deal with the stares and whispers, in a weird way it can also be a great thing: http://mommyhoodbytes.com/open-letter-parents-honey-rae-different-blessing-2/ God Bless you and your family!

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  • June 24, 2015 at 10:19 pm
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    Beautiful precious little girl. You’ve touched my heart. Linda

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  • June 25, 2015 at 3:01 am
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    Hi, i just read your post, as someone who has had to shush her children at times i found it very helpful. I dont want my children growing up treating others badly by the way they look, so i have been trying to explain people may look different on the outside but its whats on the inside that counts, we all look the same on the inside and to me thats what should show through, i tell my children to find the good on the inside. But your points are brilliant, im sure im going to need to use thoes points at some stage. Thanks so much 🙂

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  • June 25, 2015 at 7:27 am
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    I would like to say ‘thank you ‘ for sharing this subject matter and offering positive suggestions on how we can help educate young children on how to acknowledge and show kindness towards others that may appear different than the rest. Some people have just never been taught how to approach this subject. You did so beautifully.

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  • June 25, 2015 at 8:58 am
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    Thank you so much for sharing this. This is really powerful.

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  • June 25, 2015 at 1:51 pm
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    Thank you for writing this. I talk to my kids positively about differences and have muddled my way through moments when questions come in public, when it’s hard to figure out the right way to answer without being rude to the person they’re curious about. Thank you for sharing these ways to respond, to be more open and including and loving.

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  • June 25, 2015 at 2:10 pm
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    Thank you for teaching us. I have two incredibly beautiful daughters (inside is my direct reference here) the older had something in her that attracted her to the underdog. The friendless, anyone with a challenge, anyone being picked on. I have learned so much from her natural compassion for all, but specifically anyone she felt needed an extra amount. My 5 y.o. sees friends in every face, diferent, same, similar, she just wants to connect with ay human that wants to connect back. It’s been amazing that in many situations, they have shown me the natural way to respond to differences. Sadly, where they don’t take the lead, I desire to just be a part of the human race and treat others them same but hit situations like you explain and while I don’t back away, I am unsure. Thanks you for some input. I hope I speak for many a mother that I often want to do the best thing for someone with whom children respond hurtfully and this really helps give some insight.

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  • June 25, 2015 at 6:39 pm
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    Your daughter is beautiful. I appreciate what you are doing to help educate people BUT – regardless…. your daughter is Beautiful.

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  • June 25, 2015 at 8:02 pm
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    Brenna is a beautiful child, thank you so much for sharing her story. How lucky you are to have each other- your family seems so full of love. And thank you for this extremely practical and helpful advice! I know that I’m striving to teach my kids to be kind, polite and empathetic, but sometimes it’s bumpy as we are still learning. I appreciate knowing how to better teach them. I know I am still learning as well, but I HAVE learned that ignoring or pretending not to see someone who is different is just as painful as staring or making an unkind remark (which I would have never done). I have learned to make eye contact, say hello and smile. And I’m ashamed that I didn’t always do it before.

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  • June 26, 2015 at 6:02 am
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    I love this so much! I love the ideas you share for parents. It really made me think of how to deal with situations with my son where he is curious. It’s so important at a young age to teach children it’s okay to be different. I remember as a child seeing an albino woman. I thought it was the coolest thing and pointed it out. The way adults reacted confused me and showed me they thought being albino wasn’t something to point out and celebrate. We should always celebrate differences. It’s what makes us unique. Brenna is precious. I love her sweet smile, what a doll!

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  • June 26, 2015 at 12:44 pm
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    Such a powerful and loving message from an awesome mother and author. Your advice is spot-on and demonstrates how to be kind and inclusive, attributes we all want. Thank you Courtney

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  • June 26, 2015 at 4:42 pm
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    Courtney-
    My name is Stacy and I have been following your blog since one of my former college students posted it on her blog early in your journey. You are a gifted writer, photographer and amazing mother. Yesterday I was checking my Facebook and I saw your post reposted by my sister in laws – sister. She wrote ” just perfect. All parents should read. “. Elizabeth is a retired principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet, a Tony – nominee for her roll in Moving Out but best of all mom to 10 year old James. Just want you to know you are teaching mommies all over the world. Thank you for sharing your family with the world. Brenna has made such a wonderful impact on the world. She is so beautiful. Your posts and pictures brighten my day and reminds me of God’s glory.

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  • June 27, 2015 at 9:26 am
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    As an early childhood educator, I have so much appreciation for this article. It is so important to help children develop a sense of grace and courtesy. I know you reach a lot of families through your blog. I was blessed to meet Brenna at Target once. May God continue to bless Brenna and her family!

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  • June 29, 2015 at 8:31 am
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    Thank you for writing this. My children are very vocal and point out a lot of things they see. I am that parent that try’s to engage my children by saying something nice in the situation but I always feared I might not be doing the right thing. I often wondered if people prefer I teach my children not to say anything because the initial comments do hurt the person. I will keep trying to do my best as a parent same as you. Thank you again for teaching us how we can help your baby.

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  • June 29, 2015 at 9:52 am
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    Our conversations from the beginning have been that all families are different and all people are different. Saturday, we encountered a city bus that enables folks in wheelchairs to get around (we stopped and watched the mechanics of the bus) and I explained that some people need help walking, some have special chairs to help them get around, but when we talk about differences we make a point to note the differences in each other as well. “I have blonde hair, you have brown hair, that man uses a cane, daddy wears glasses – everyone is different. When we were done watching the bus do it’s thing, we waved a happy hello to the patron, wished her a great day, and I thanked her for letting us watch her bus.

    So far, this 4 year old is basically just interested in all people, and the mechanics of things (she may be an engineer some day.)

    Thank you for sharing your experience so we can continue to grow and be compassionate without being unintentionally hurtful.

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  • July 1, 2015 at 6:55 am
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    I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes. Beautiful post, beautiful message. Your daughter IS beautiful, from one mom of a Brenna to another! 🙂

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  • July 1, 2015 at 11:34 am
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    Thank you for writing this. I have an extremely outspoken daughter and struggle with knowing how to appropriately respond to her, in my ears, foghorn-like questions. My embarrassment stems from the fact that she says whatever as it pops into her head in her normal volume of shout and I get so caught up in waiting for the earth to swallow me whole, that I forget the other party may be embarrassed as well and I need to try to smooth the situation over in the manner you suggest. This post is very helpful and hopefully I remember it going forward.

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  • July 2, 2015 at 5:56 am
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    She is SUCH a cutie!! I love her sweet smile!

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  • July 2, 2015 at 6:01 am
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    Thank you for writing this post. I almost wrote a very similar post last week. I think your baby girl is beautiful, the joy on her face in the picture you shared is so contagious!!

    I, too, feel the stares, comments, and I get frustrated and hurt, hoping my child will understand to take it all in stride. Praying for your sweet family. Sunshine

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  • July 2, 2015 at 11:41 am
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    Thank you for this post. I often feel like that mom that is embarrassed that my kid just said those things . We often talk about it afterwards and how everyone is a different but this has opened a whole other way of approaching the situation. Thank you again

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  • July 2, 2015 at 5:43 pm
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    I was a manager at a distribution center and we hired a young man who had been badly burned when he was a young teen. He is a very smart guy and rose through increasing positions of responsibility as the years went by. The year I left, I was talking with one of the other managers and we spoke of our friend. She said “You know, when I first met him all I could see were the burns. Now I don’t even notice them”. That was exactly right. When I left, not only didn’t I notice them. I didn’t even see them anymore. I pray you’ll help her have emotional armor until people grow to see her for who she is.

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    • July 3, 2015 at 4:58 am
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      This is just a beautiful story, thank you for sharing!

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  • July 3, 2015 at 12:15 am
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    Beautifully written.
    Sending every good wish to you and your lovely family 🙂

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  • July 3, 2015 at 8:12 am
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    Beautifully written! And so, so important! This is exactly how I try to handle these questions from my 3yo son. We live in a small town with a lot of prejudicial attitudes, so I’ve been talking about differences with him his entire life. I’ve always tried to answer all of his questions honestly and appropriately and model good behaviour.

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  • July 3, 2015 at 5:46 pm
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    I followed your story when Brenna was a baby. Great to see her growing up and so pretty. God bless.

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  • July 5, 2015 at 6:46 am
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    Hello may I say your daughter is beautiful! My kids are very open to everyone because they are being raised by two moms and they realize so many people are rude, maybe not understanding they are rude because they have two moms. My kids play with children in wheel chairs, black white, or otherwise. Kids don’t see a difference until a parent makes it known by saying shhhh or not answering the questions. My daughter asked a girl in a wheel chair what they could do together because she knew she couldn’t do a whole lot. When we got home she asked me why she had a wheel chair but was so young, I responded with we are all different some legs work others don’t even if they are young. Without explaining to a child that we are all made differently they will keep asking and wondering because they thrive for the knowledge not to be rude. Open your heart ask their parent and teach them, we have about 15 books on diversity and each say we are all made special.

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  • July 5, 2015 at 1:02 pm
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    Beautiful post. I wish there were more children’s books about differences. We have found a few at our local library. It would be great to include a Story Time theme about differences whether in the home, library calendar and at preschools.
    Inclusion is the underlying message here. Include the child and the parent where ever you are.
    Thank you for this beautifully written post. I have shared with my blog network xx

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    • July 8, 2015 at 5:25 am
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      That’s a great idea about the Story Time theme! Thank you for sharing my post too 🙂 I hope you find my list of children’s books helpful, and you can always request books from your library system that your own library doesn’t have – we do that all the time!

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  • July 8, 2015 at 10:56 am
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    It is so sad that people treat you and your precious girl this way. Why do differences have to be made into something they’re not? I have a friend who was born with one leg, and the first time my 4yo daughter met him, she asked him straight up, “Why do you only have one leg?” It wasn’t an offensive question, and my friend simply answered her. “I was born this way.” And that was that. She went on with playing and has never treated him differently than anyone else. Maybe it helps that my husband and I don’t treat him any differently either, but I think most kids are very accepting of others, they just have questions (and take cues from their parents as to how to treat people). I appreciate this article very much, thank you for the insights!

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  • July 17, 2015 at 6:39 am
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    Thanks for the advice. Being a Mom (of any age child) in public isn’t always easy and in reflection I often wish I would have done or said something differently. On another note: Beautiful Brennas of the world unite!

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  • July 24, 2015 at 9:54 am
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    Thank you for the insight. I promise to do this with my girls. Your little girl has a beautiful smile!

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  • July 28, 2015 at 7:33 am
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    My parents must have done this right because my first comment when I saw this picture without even reading the caption was, oh what a cute baby! Shes adorable I lice that smile.

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  • July 28, 2015 at 5:17 pm
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    I wanted to say thank you as I see many have, I to have had those moments of hushing my child and I’ve never known what to do, but now I know. I do read to my child about differences and there are a few children in their school with differences, so it has been tasked many times. But I am grateful for you posting this, so now I know what I should do! Thank you for sharing your precious beautiful daughter with us.

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  • July 28, 2015 at 8:06 pm
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    Thank you so much for this. I’m not a mother yet, but I’ve often wondered how I will react when my child blurts out such a question. This is immensely helpful!

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  • July 29, 2015 at 7:38 am
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    Awesome post! You have a gorgeous girl!! I’ve always told my boys that God makes each one of us different so we can be unique to Him. Not sure it’s exactly right but it’s usually what I say. I never shy away and I definitely try not to get embarrassed by the situation so the other person doesn’t feel uncomfortable. Thanks for the other suggestions, they will sure come in handy with 3 curious little boys.

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  • July 30, 2015 at 3:07 am
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    Such helpful words! As a nanny for nearly 10 years and multiple families, I have had my fair share of embarrassing moments with children learning to navigate their worlds, and I have often wondered what would help children with special needs and thier parents feel more comfortable and supported by those of us who see you in public, care deeply and want to somehow show that, but without being rude, or invasive. You are a wonderfully giving person for sharing your messages of blessing the curious masses when so many would just feel overwhelmed. I will definitely talk to as many of my little charges about differences as possible (as I have in the past) and I will feel ever so much more empowered to show support for different kinds of families when and wherever I encounter them. Thank You.

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    • July 30, 2015 at 6:17 am
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      Thank you for being so willing to be proactive and help your little ones learn about differences!

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  • July 30, 2015 at 8:07 pm
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    I’ve never posted a reply to anything and don’t typically read too many blogs, but I felt that I had to tell you two things. First, how very powerful this post has been for me. I think about your words and suggestions constantly as both a mother and educator and I truly feel that you have given me some very powerful and important advice that I’ve thought so much about. What an important piece this is, and you should be so proud that it’s having the impact it has! The second thing I wanted to say is how incredibly adorable your lil girl is. That smile is too much and those cheeks are so delicious! I’ve looked a basically all your posts just to see more pics of her…she is so animated! She is gorgeous, and I’m confident that with you as her mom she’ll continue to be, inside and out. Thank you for sharing your story…you’ve truly touched me.

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  • August 1, 2015 at 1:55 pm
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    What a beautifully written piece. I read this via another blog and just had to come to your website to read more. Your daughter is just beautiful – and like someone mentioned earlier, that was my first reaction before even reading the piece! 🙂 She has an amazing smile and looks like such a happy little girl 🙂 I read some of your other articles and I think along with this one, my favourite one was the letter to your daughter on her 2nd birthday. So beautiful. You are blessed with such a beautiful family. Thank you so much for sharing xx

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  • November 15, 2015 at 4:55 pm
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    Thank you for letting me know what to say! You did not complain, you offered solutions. Thanks again!

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  • November 15, 2015 at 5:33 pm
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    Your daughter is so beautiful. I wish I could just snuggle with her I showed her pictures to my 8 year old daughter and all she could say was mommy look at her chunky cheecks. I cant imagine your struggle with people out there in this world. But not everyone is rude. I hope to see more pictures in the future of that beautiful baby of yours.

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  • September 1, 2016 at 1:19 am
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    Love your message. I haven’t been reading to my children about differences small or large. That will change. Thank you for your raw honesty.

    Susana

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  • September 4, 2016 at 4:19 am
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    Courtney are you able to use anything topical on her skin? I only ask because I use a really great sensitive skin treatment that is great for reducing redness and relieving dry skin. I use it myself on my eczema and Rosacea but I also use it on my children for anything from rashes to sunburn to chap, raw skin in winter. It’s called Soothe from Rodan + Fields if you want to check it out! https://kateparker.myrandf.com/Shop/Product/SOTT050

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  • September 6, 2016 at 9:46 am
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    Dear Courtney,
    I am not a parent i have no children but i know that these special kids with special needs are angels sent from God to special parents that these childrenare a blessing to each and ever life they touch and i think your daughter is beautiful and you are blessed to be her mom i pray God grants you strength courage and that he covers you with his grace may you have a double portion anointing upon you life God bless you and your family and may the be a headge of protection that surrounds you may angels watch over you and guide you

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