Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mom, I got this!

Last spring I was in a grocery store with my boys when a woman was very rude to us in the checkout line.  She was extremely annoyed because she believed we should be in a different line.  I finally looked her in the eye and asked, "Do you really need to act like this?"  Her arrogant reply was as expected, "I'm very busy.  You should be in the express line!"  I told the boys to go ahead as they had been waiting in line, and we were next.  The lady huffed and continued her attempt to make us feel uncomfortable.  I ignored her as we calmly took our time scanning and purchasing the three items we bought.  As we were leaving I said to Peter (loud enough that she could hear), "It's too bad that some people think they are more important and busier than everyone else."  Later in the car, I told Peter that she was an adult bully and that people like that don't expect anyone to stand up to them.  They think they can bulldoze their way through life by making others feel inadequate.  I explained to Peter that I was glad we didn't back down and let the woman go ahead of us, but I was also disappointed that I allowed such a rude person to upset me.  It didn't occur to me at the time how much Peter learned from my behavior that day.

Peter is attending a summer camp this month where no one is familiar with his differences.  He goes incognito with his prosthetic ear and wears a band-aid over his open stoma (trach hole).  The band-aid is obvious, but I was surprised when he said that one of the boys noticed "something different" about his ear prosthesis.  "Well, he must have noticed that it looks different and is curious," I said.  Peter just shrugged and remained silent on the issue.

Unfortunately I was wrong, something I suspect Peter already knew.  This boy repeatedly makes other students cry, destroys things, teases, and threatens.  Peter became his target last week when the boy told him to get off a piece of playground equipment.  When Peter refused, the kid became angry and shouted, "Your ear is weird, your neck creeps me out, and you talk funny!"  Peter, initially thinking he was joking, quickly realized the boy was serious and threatening.  So, he got off the playground equipment and walked away.

When Peter later told me the story, I was disappointed that he was so passive.  Fortunately, he didn't let me down because he went on to say, "But then I remembered what happened at the grocery store.  So, I walked up to the boy and said, 'You're a jerk'."  "YES!" I shouted with a fist pump.  I was so proud of him!  "You did exactly the right thing," I said.  "What did the boy do after you called him a jerk?"  "Nothing," said Peter.  "But some of the girls saw it happen and tried to make me feel better.  They like me (wink, wink)."

Peter tells me he has courage and is not a wimp.  He continues to stand up to this boy and is even protecting one of the other kids from his bullying.  I've asked repeatedly if he wants me to talk to the teachers.  "Mom," he says, "I got this.  I can handle it."  The incidents have mostly been name calling and hurtful words, so my inner mama bear is content to let things play out.  Also, I can tell that Peter is loving the activities and enjoying the company of the other kids and teachers.  That he is getting an unexpected lesson on how to stand up for himself is all the better.  I'm now the one learning from his leadership and behavior!

Peter Dankelson - 12 years old - Goldenhar Syndrome


  1. Peter never ceases to amaze me. We can all learn something from him.
    By the way....the picture above....what a HUNK!!!
    Give him a big hug from Mrs. Beans

  2. I'm so proud of you Peter! There will always be jerks in this world and we all need to put them in there place. I'm sure you taught all the other kids some things about standing up for themselves that week too.

  3. Powerful story, Dede. Thank you for sharing. You're walking the walk and your kids are following suit. That's what role modeling is all about :)


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