I always seem to pick the slowest line at the store. Yesterday wasn’t any different. It wasn’t until I had everything out of the basket and on the conveyor belt that I realized the cashier was in training. Not only was he painstakingly slow, he also didn’t respond to my repeated requests to please scan the boys’ baseball set and bumpy ball so they would stop asking for them. Isn’t it in Cashiering 101 to appease all small children first?
The cashier who was doing the training sensed our impatience enough to try to keep us entertained. We often hear the same things about our boys. “Look at their beautiful red hair” and then “Oh, those curls!” Owen knows this is for him and then he gives a cheesy little smile that says, “yes, I know I’m cute”.
I knew what was coming next. “How old is he?” But this time was different, before I could say anything, she and Owen spoke in unison. Hers a question? “Two?” and his a proud statement, “Two”.
I didn’t know which direction to target my beams of joy. Towards Owen for engaging in the conversation without my coercion? Towards this stranger who thought he looked two? Or back to Owen for actually looking like a two-year-old? Or, wait, should it be to the woman because she didn’t follow the question with a look that asked, “so…what’s wrong with him?”
It’s funny how such an innocuous question like, “how old is he,” can feel like a loaded inquisition. I’ve posted in the past how I had stopped correcting Owen’s age long before doctors did. But, I will admit, I still often felt the need to explain. I guess I never questioned that need, until in this instance, when I didn’t have to.
After confirming Owen was two, she turned to Kellen and asked if he was 5 or 6. He beamed too. She said she was surprised he’s only four because Kellen is much taller than her four-year-old. You know, I didn’t feel the need to say, “he’s tall because I’m 5’10” and his dad is tall, too.” I felt no need to explain something that is meant to be a positive. I mean seriously, think about it, when your kid is said to be smart or attractive, do you ever feel like you need to explain it? (It should be obvious it’s because they have stunning geniuses for parents).
Why do we (I) feel that we have to explain why our kids are less than average in something? Owen actually is pretty big for a former micro preemie (~34″ and 24 lbs at 27 months), but his abilities are not that of the average two-year-old. Yes, there are several reasons why Owen is where he is. But (and it’s a big but), I feel like every time I explain that he’s amazing “all things considering”, I’m reminding him (and Kellen) that he’s different…in a less than way.
The truth is, there probably won’t be a day in his life that Owen won’t think about the fact that he was a micro preemie. Even IF he gets lucky and is one of the few micro preemies that doesn’t have life-long disabilities, every time he looks in the mirror he’ll see scars covering his abdomen, on his back, on his neck and his arms and wrists. Every time he goes to the beach or gets intimate with a girl (or boy), he’s going to be asked to explain.
Being a former micro preemie is a part of his story and I want Owen to be proud of how far he has come. However, being a former micro preemie does not define Owen…and I never want it to be his excuse for giving up on his dreams. Owen has the rest of his life to define who he is. It’s my job to make sure that he understands his possibilities…not in spite of his disabilities…but regardless of them.
Thank you, Target Cashier Trainer-lady. I needed that reminder.