I wish I could always protect Bridget from the mean people in this world.
I live in a bubble, to be honest. I have a tremendous village. Bridget has incredible people in her life that accept her for the person she is, with love. The acceptance she receives has allowed her to attend summer camps, be an active member of the general education classroom, ride the big yellow bus like a normal kid. I truly believe that our village has allowed Bridget to be an important part of our town, of our society and allow her a sense of being a normal kid.
Not a different one.
It doesn’t happen often, but there are the moments, like today, that remind me that somedays she is an unwelcome guest in normal-ville. That as much education we do, as much advocating we do, no matter how many ways we find to include Bridget, there are other kids and people who do not see her as not one of them.
It happened in preschool, when she could barely walk and the typical peers would not slow down. Until Angel, who walked at Bridget’s pace or adapted the play so she could be included. Invited her to a gymnastics birthday party, because she did not understand that Bridget would not be able to participate like the other kids. She demanded Bridget attend,
It happened in kindergarten, when she was called “broken” by a classmate. Until Ella, punched that kid in the nose. Then made sure she was always near Bridget on the playground to prevent it from ever happening again.
Then today, in third grade, when she rode a different bus to school she was called the “dumb Down Syndrome kid”.
She was so excited, today, to ride the bus with her future prom-date. Too excited to eat her breakfast, she ate her Pop-Tart in the car. We arrived, he put the puppies in another room, knowing that they scare her. She hung out with him and his older sister and played before the bus came. He carried her backpack to the bus! The bus driver knew to sit Bridget near the front of the bus. Her prom date sat with her.
And then a classmate, someone who knows Bridget, got on the bus and called her the “dumb Down Syndrome kid”.
Which is stupid on two levels, first she doesn’t have Down Syndrome. Second, she isn’t dumb.
But it hurts. It makes me feel that all the awareness I’ve done for PACS1 is for naught, because her classmates don’t even know why she learns differently. It frightens me, because she has friends like A&S who invite her to birthday parties and playdates and their moms call and say how do we make it possible for Bridget to attend? I worry that those calls will stop coming, that she will no longer be a welcome part of their group.
It hurts because this child knows who Bridget is, has been in a class with her, but decided to make himself look cool by pointing out she is different. It worries me, as she gets older these incidents will happen more often. As her differences become more noticeable. The bullying behavior will get more dangerous.
Bridget is not dumb.
She thankfully doesn’t understand that this classmate was being mean to her. The other classmates do, they understand. Some laugh and agree.
Then there is Charlie.
Charlie who stood up and defended Bridget. Who when the other boy would not stop or apologize, got his older sister. Sam who then went and reported the behavior to the bus driver and the principal. Sam who sat down on the other side of Bridget to make sure no other hurtful words were said.
Superheroes. These children are superheroes.
Bridget got off the bus, her other friends found out what happened and circled around her. No one is going to minimize her, bully her or make her feel less than.
Not on their watch.
I wish I could protect Bridget from all the mean people in the world.
But I am so thankful that there are Superheroes out there who protect her when I cannot.
I wasn’t planning on writing for Finish That Sentence today. I had another post planned, a really fun and cool one. I postponed it after I got the phone call from the school. I hung up, called Charlie’s mom to thank her for raising such awesome children. Then we cried together. Ugly crying at work kind of sucks. But being able to lean on a friend when you are hurt is a gift I cannot repay.
Thank you to all the parents out there raising Superheroes. Bridget needs you.
We all need you.