See that adorable little boy? That's my baby cousin Luke. He's a precocious and hyper two-and-a-half-year-old who never fails to make everyone around him smile. He is super huggable and always manages to bring out my inner child. What does this have to do with my disability, you ask? Well, a whole lot. As a one-handed girl, I find people staring at me ALL THE TIME. While I'm certainly used to random strangers gawking at me (I've had twenty years to get accustomed to it, after all), I'm still not completely comfortable with it. I know that the staring's inevitable, but it's no fun being the center of attention for a negative reason. Anyway, I remember being super nervous when Luke was born. I wondered what he would think of my little arm when he grew older. I knew he would one day realize that his older cousin was different from everyone else. Fortunately, though, I've learned that I wasn't giving little kids enough credit.
Now that he's a toddler, Luke can speak in full sentences and get his ideas across. He's becoming more and more aware of the world and the people around him. Just the other day, I was babysitting him when something really funny happened. I was sitting at the kitchen table with Luke perched on my lap and with my computer in front of us. (Luke is a little obsessed with Mac Photo Booth, so we spend quite a bit of time taking silly pictures together). Anyway, I was typing on the keyboard with my right hand and my little arm when Luke noticed that something was off. He grabbed my right hand and then touched my little arm, as if wondering why they were so different. Pointing to my short arm, he asked, "What's that?" I told him it was my "special arm" and hoped I wouldn't have to explain further. (After all, how could I expect a kid to understand congenital amputation?) Instead of freaking out, though, Luke accepted my answer. He started asking the same "what's this" question of my right hand, my nose, my eyes, my hair, etc. Basically, he turned his curiosity and my willingness to respond into a game. Pretty smart for a toddler, huh? And you know what I've come to realize? He's not the only kid who accepts my disability as completely normal.
I was recently at a family party where my cousin had invited her husband's family too. They're all in their 30s and 40s, so you can bet there were plenty of cutiepie babies and children running around. Since I was wearing a festive sleeveless dress, my prosthetic arm was obvious to anyone with eyes. One small boy (I'd say he was around 4 or 5 years old) came up to me and asked about my hand. Now that I'm a pro at making my handicap sound cool to little kids, I said that it was my bionic arm and that I'm part robot. The boy's eyes immediately grew huge and a shocked expression took over his adorable little face. Oh great, I thought to myself. He's super scared now; I'm going to give this poor kid nightmares for the next week or so... But then he surprised me. He yelled out, "Wow, that's awesome! I wish I had that! I don't even have that at home." He looked sad for all of five seconds and then pulled me by the hand (yes, the fake one) into the video game room. Just like that, I was suddenly his best friend and video game opponent of choice.
So there you have it, folks. Kids are not the little monsters I thought I had to be afraid of. They're not the judgmental and pitying people I once thought they were (nope, that's adults). And they're not even pint-sized bullies who treat you like you're inferior (again, that's adults). They're just these wise little beings willing to accept and love you despite your having one and a half arms.