When I was in grade one, I wore costumes to school. One day I’d be a ballerina, the next, Michael Jackson. I LOVED playing dressing up. I don’t remember the last day I wore a costume to class, but it happened, as expected.
Somewhere between kindergarten and high school, I learned that people don’t do that. I learned that I “wanted” tearaway pants and black and white Reeboks. As the youngest of three sisters, I worked mostly with hand-me-downs, but I still knew what to wear to fit in.
It runs so much deeper than clothes. I think of Ruby and her vision. She doesn’t “fit in” to “normal” expectations. She’s our rarest Ruby.
Ruby always has me thinking. Our inclination to fit in can dull our natural ability to shine. We can subconsciously silence what makes us unique, what makes us behave differently, because fitting in feels safer than standing out.
One day at the park, my sister and I overheard another parent: “No [Billy]! We don’t climb up slides! Slides are for going down!” I’m 100% sure I’ve absentmindedly made similar comments, and I’m not trying to shame her or any other mom or dad. But I want to ask: Who says slides are just for going down? Why do we think we need to do things the same way as everyone else?
We didn’t choose for Ruby to be so unique. She just is, just like every other child in his or her own right is. I understand the importance of inclusivity and belonging, especially for a child with a disability, and I’m not saying Ruby shouldn’t want to fit in at all. I want that for her too. It’s especially top of mind as we start to think about daycare, a topic for another post.
But, what I am going to do is encourage her and those around her to embrace her differences. I’m going to do my best to help her find her own way, with the strengths and skills she naturally has. We can fit in while nurturing our individuality. Puzzles are never made up of identical pieces.
To once again quote visually impaired fashion designer Bianca vonStempel, “unique is our greatest power“. Just try to think of any success story, entrepreneur, innovator, or leader who has gotten to where they are by fitting in. They don’t exist.
Ruby inspires me to be more myself – to listen to my inner voice and embrace what makes me different. Ruby is teaching me to nurture what makes me ME.
Thank you, my baby.