April is Limb-Difference and Limb-Loss Awareness Month. I am the Co-Founder and Volunteer Director of NubAbility (Nub: What we call the limb-different limb; Ability: Being Able to;) Athletics Foundation, an organization that serves kids with limb-differences by coaching courage and confidence through mainstreamed organized sport and in life.
Kids with limb-differences, their families and athletes with limb-differences have become a part of my daily sphere of influence. I organize camps across the U.S. for NubAbility Athletics, with our largest one being in DuQuoin, July 13-16. I also run the day to day operations of our nonprofit charity.
To bring some awareness about the population I serve I’d like to share with you about limb-differences and limb-loss. Statistics are found on amputee-coalition.org
- Six babies out of every 10,000 are born with an upper or lower limb-difference.
- Some babies are born with limb-reductions effecting both upper and lower limbs. (Center for Disease Control).
- There are 2 million people living in the U.S. who have suffered an amputation of a limb by either disease or trauma.
- 600 children suffer amputations by lawn mowers each year. Please see this safety check list to keep children from lawn mower harm or death. (http://www.amputee-coalition.org/lawn-mower-accidents-cause-needless-amputations/) NubAbility Athletics coached at it’s summer camp in DuQuoin, IL at least a dozen youth who lost limbs due to mowers this past summer. These injuries are completely preventable.
- Cancer is the number one cause of amputations after trauma for children.
- Diabetes and trauma are the biggest causes of amputations for adults.
In honor of the thousands of kids and adult athletes with limb-differences I have come to know and work with, I’d like to share with you my thoughts on raising a child with a visible difference and how you should react to others who stare a little to long, say the darnedest things, or are just down right rude to their face. I hope any parent with a child that has any sort of difference will benefit from my years of learning how to be a decent parent. You can find this post in my blog, RiseByLifting.com Feel free to subscribe and share.
How I knew My Reactions to the Stares, Comments, and Rudeness, Paid Off
Sam Kuhnert, my second out of 3 sons, spoke to 204 School in Perry County, IL for Red Ribbon Week in October. He spoke about dreaming big dreams and working hard to make them come true. He graduated college this past August and has been fine-tuning his motivational speaking skills while being an agent for Linzee Insurance. He speaks to all audiences, but his passion lies with school kids. He learned so much in life about perseverance, achievement, failure and heartbreak being a kid with a visible limb-difference in school, he wants to encourage youth to learn from his story and encourage courage in themselves and in others.
At 204 School, with bleachers full of students, the gym quieted. Sam spoke passionately, humorously and with audience interaction. I was proud as his mom to witness, how he captivated the young listeners for forty-five minutes. He spoke about his story and how many different obstacles he overcame to reach his dreams. He spoke about “OWNING” his difference and how that truly made the difference in his journey toward achieving his dreams. He told his story. One that has been centered around sport. Sport that he was told time and time again that he couldn’t do at the next level. Sport that took him to the mound of a college team with the lowest ERA in his conference. Sport that he used to prove his difference was just that, a difference, not a deal breaker.
As the Q & A time ended at the end of his speaking, the kids ages 6-14 filed out of the gym, one-by-one. Sam took the opportunity to hand them each a bookmark created to encourage kids to own their differences and to rock them.
The younger kids were fixated on his nub that held the bookmarks close to his body. Their stares were of wonder and curiosity. It tickled Sam! He, like most of us, notice when we are being studied. I stood back as his mama and smiled, with my face, with my heart. The prophesy I told him when he was young and hurt by the stares and comments of others had come true:
“One day, you will be in a position where the watchers will become respecters. They will leave your presence and tell others they are happy to know who you are and what you do. AND, you will be thankful that you were born with a nub, because it is a beautiful part of you, but it doesn’t define you. You will define it. You will change lives because of it.”
We, (his dad and I), taught him that the starers and commenters were “watchers” and his actions would turn them into “respecters”. That’s happened.
We also, taught him that no one could steal his joy if he didn’t allow them. We taught him to take the bully target off of his back by seeing himself as he was created to be, remarkably and wonderfully made as described in Psalm 139:13-16.
We taught him his circumstances would be defined by how hard he worked to overcome the way the world viewed them. We taught him that he would define for the world his circumstances.
What are you teaching your kids that have a difference? Any kind of difference that might single them out? You see, I understood from the beginning what the Author of my faith says about knowing you and I. I read what he said about my boy.
I knew from the moment I held my little butterball for the first time God had a plan for him. I knew there was a reason he was made different. While others were in turmoil over “how” he was going to do the same things two-handed people do, I was confident he was created to do things differently for a purpose. It took a few months, but after he climbed up the T.V. antenna at 9-months old, my husband came around to my way of thinking. There is a plan. A perfectly purposed plan.
Psalm 139:15-16 New International Version (NIV)
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
I taught my boy what God said about him.
It became a process of progress over the years. It wasn’t a one and done parenting method. Words still hurt him, actions still crumbled him. However, recalling each defining incident throughout my 24 year-old’s life, we could clearly pinpoint a marked improvement in confidence, courage, and attitude about his nub. With each hurtful action and each curious stare, he owned more and more of his difference. Around the age of 14, his world changed for the better for good, when he decided his difference was a gift, not a curse.
So, what do you say to your child who has a visible difference when others notice?
Have YOU encouraged your child to define their difference as a good thing? To take ownership of it? Courage Up parents!! How you view your child’s difference to them and to others is how they will view themselves. Life is tough. Make your kid tougher by REMOVING pity from your attitude and replace it with gratitude for being entrusted with such a unique and marvelous creature capable of amazing others. Love them through it but guide them to it!
And, what do you say to those that notice?
Addressing the stares, correcting the rudeness, calling out the curious and the watchers in front of your child can be detrimental to their self-image. Especially if you don’t have your own feelings about their limb-difference or difference settled. So, STOP IT!
Going off on a tangent and telling someone off does NOTHING positive for your kid. It sends all the WRONG messages to your child. You address the actions of others TO your child if they noticed.
If you find yourself face to face with someone that has made you or your child uncomfortable simply ask them this question:
“I’ve noticed you might have a question about my kids cool (___________). What would you like to know?”
And, be prepared to answer that question with a smile on your face, confidence in your heart and pride for your child. Keep it short. Keep it sweet. Thank them for noticing how freakin’ AWESOME your kid is!
Be encouraged moms and dads. Parenting a child with a difference, is just that, different. Your attitude and gratitude will determine the way they will go. You can make them pitiful or powerful, but not both.
Sam, when only 18, was given the passion to push forward with his vision of NubAbility Athletics and organized sport camps, so youth with limb-differences would experience that “ownership” of their difference at a much younger age. In 6 short years, Nubability Athletics has exploded into a global organization in it’s service reach! We’d love it if you “LIKED” our Facebook Page Facebook.com/NubAbility and followed us on Instagram and Twitter: @NubAbility
Much Love & Be a Blessing,
Jana Kaye Kuhnert, Co-Founder and Team Mom of NubAbility Athletics a 501(c)3 Nonprofit Speaker & Author of http://www.RisebyLifting.com Blog