Wednesday evenings I teach Body Pump. Some evenings Jake is home in time to take the girls so that I don't have to take them with me. My class is from 5:30pm-6:30pm, so I have to take the girls dinner if they go with me. Last night, I took them with me. Pretty usual.
Livia is always excited to go anywhere. I firmly believe she knows what we are doing. She gets so happy when we pull up to church, the Y, school, any place that is fun to her. Last night was no exception. She bolted right into the drop-in (or now called stay-n-play). Finley took her coat off and hung it up and went to playing. I was signing the girls in when time just stood still as I heard "SHE's STUPID." I just knew, that someone called Livia stupid. Before I could say anything or really find out what happened, Finley stood up with tears in her eyes and said "My sister IS NOT STUPID, and you don't call anyone stupid." She then pointed at this girl and ratted her out like I didn't hear what had been said. I looked at this girl(who looked to be 7) and said "Calling someone stupid is completely disrespectful and you don't call anyone that." My heart rate had spiked, my blood was boiling, and I wanted to cry. I had to just walk out. The drop in staff was placing the girl in time-out and told me they would take care of the situation. Liv was laughing and Finley had moved on.
My mind was racing and I was really upset. I kept telling myself, she's a kid, she's a kid, she's a kid, she doesn't know any better. But that's not acceptable to me. I was able to teach my class, with a few mistakes in the warm-up. It ended up being a pretty intense class because I was worked up from the start. When I picked the girls up, the staff had explained to me that this little girl said she saw Livia climb on a table and she said she(Liv) was stupid for that. The staff didn't think this girl knew of Livia's difference. Back to calming myself down. She's just a kid is no excuse. My 3 year old knew better, which by the way, I am so PROUD of Finley Faith. So, this girl didn't know Liv had special needs. Then is it bullying? Why would she say "she's stupid?" I then just felt bad for this girl because she probably has been told she's stupid for doing something harmless, like climbing on a table. Stupid? It may be dangerous, or something you shouldn't do, but she's stupid? That's not how I'd describe someone climbing on a table. My point is that I feel like tolerance and acceptance are so important. Teaching our youth that everyone is different, and everyone deserves to be respected and loved. Not everyone has to be your BFF. I'm not saying you even have to like everyone, but it's not ok to belittle, degrade, or make fun of anyone. If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything.
I'm proud that my lil 3 year old will stand up for her sister that can't stand up for herself. After talking with the drop in staff a little further, I explained to them that I have never seen Finely react in this way. I didn't even think she knew what "stupid" was. They then told me that Finley has stood up for Livia many times. Proud momma moment, indeed. I believe that even if Liv was a typical child, Jake and I would have instilled the value of loving everyone and accepting differences. Finley has been forced to learn this value even more so. We push the fact that because Livia is different, and needs more time and patience, we still love her and take care of her. We include Finley in some of Livia's care-taking, when Finley wants to be involved. Finley has very much embraced her sister and even though this is all Finley has known, she knows more than what Jake and I realize. I dread the day when I'm going to have to tell Finley more, but I'm so thankful for the young, strong lady Finley is developing into. She will be an advocate.
Livia is teaching all of us to love more. I'm so thankful for that. I'm so proud of my girls and what they are teaching all of us.
Today I pray that our youth will be more tolerant and educated about how different we all are. It's so simple and something I'm sure we know, but how do we really put it into practice?