Monday, May 21, 2012

Winner of the Creepy Comeback Contest!

Peter read through everyone’s submissions and selected his winner.  Congratulations to Kristin Shaw who won the $25 Amazon gift card!  Her response to “You look creepy” was…

“I look creepy?  Huh.
What I know is that I have a good heart, and I
wouldn’t dream of saying something so ugly to another person.”

Peter liked the part about having a good heart, which makes sense because he has the biggest and most compassionate heart I’ve ever known.  He said the second part of her response, however, made him feel uncomfortable.  “Why?”  I asked.  “Because,” he said, “I don’t want to hurt their feelings.”  WHAT?!

So a kid rudely remarks, "you look creepy," and you are worried about hurting HIS feelings?  “Well, yeah,” said Peter.  WOW!!!  My tender hearted son is most definitely a much better person than me!  Although admirable, my fear is that Peter’s thoughtfulness is also something of a detriment when dealing with these types of situations.  Here is my response to his concern…

“Sadly, some people have to be told that their behavior is rude.  Otherwise they may never know that what they said was hurtful.  These people continue behaving badly until a ‘difference maker’ like you comes along to set them straight.  While you must be assertive with your reply, you can also be polite when letting someone know that their behavior was rude.  In doing so, you will leave a positive and lasting impression.  And, maybe, just maybe, that person won’t say something so rude the next time they see someone who looks different.”

I want to thank everyone who submitted their “Creepy Comebacks”.  You can read the other submissions under the comments section of last week’s blog entitled “Spreading Acceptance.”  Thanks Kristin for your winning contribution!  We will contact you privately to make arrangements for the gift card.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Spreading Acceptance

Last weekend, Peter had an unpleasant social experience when some little twerp said to him, “You look creepy.”  No adults were around to overhear this comment or to help Peter out with handling the situation.  At bedtime when I came in to say goodnight, he broke down in tears and only then told me about the incident.  I have to admit that we were both unprepared for this discussion.  We have fortunately not had situations like this happen in a very long time.  Peter is familiar to everyone at school and in our neighborhood.  When the question of, “What happened to your ear?” inevitably happens, he has always replied with a simple, “I was born this way.  It’s no big deal.”  However, asking “What happened?” vs. saying “You look creepy” are very different remarks.

The incident bothered me for several days.  What upset me was that I didn’t feel prepared to help Peter handle the situation, that I wasn’t able to empower him with advice after he told me the story, and that I had not rehearsed these situations with him in a long time.  After reflecting on it for several days, I came to the conclusion that situations such as this give Peter an opportunity to make a positive difference in the world, that he has the ability to change a person’s perspective for their lifetime.  Now that’s empowering!

With the exception of intentional bullying, most hurtful remarks are made out of ignorance, lack of understanding, and fear of the unknown.  I want Peter to be smart enough and strong enough to dismiss the hurtful part of what someone says and to quickly reply with a firm and strong statement.  It has to be something positive, simple, and easy for him to remember.  Something like, “That’s a mean thing to say.  I don’t see what is so creepy about missing an ear.”  I want to practice with Peter until he is able to confidently reply in any stressful situation.  I want his speech to be very clear and firm, and I want him to look the person right in the eye when he says it.  I don’t want Peter to be rude, but I also don’t want him to turn away, look down, or ignore the comment.

As we read in Erica’s blog last week, the comments and stares never really go away when you live with a craniofacial difference.  As Peter’s Mom, I feel compelled to come up with ways to help him have “Grace Under Fire.”  Our craniofacial community needs to create tools that help spread acceptance, especially with those one-on-one encounters.  So, I am asking for your help in the form of a contest. 

Please submit your best comeback for, “You look creepy.”   I am looking for a simple, positive, and educational remark.  Submissions need to be made either on the CCA Kids Blog Facebook page or here at  We will accept your comments for one week  (until May 20th) and then Peter will select his favorite.  The winner will be announced on the CCA Kids Blog website on Monday, May 21st and will receive a $25 Amazon gift card from Peter!

Together we can make the world a more accepting place for our children.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Grace Under Fire

Please welcome guest blogger Erica Crabtree Mossholder! 

>> Erica is a 20-something living in Huntsville, Alabama. She works at the University of Alabama in Huntsville as an executive secretary and is currently pursing an MBA. In her free time,
which is scarce, she enjoys reading blogs, working out, crafting, and various and
sundry other hobbies. Roll Tide! <<

Today is Friday and I am so glad! The end of the work week is a welcome relief to us all and Friday night with a Domino’s Pizza and a date with Mr. Clean sounds just perfect to me.

All week I’ve been looking forward to my Friday night roasted-red-pepper-and-spinach pizza but I have also harbored a bit of dread because the last time I went to Domino’s to pick up my tasty pie, I was met with a Negative Nate. A Negative Nate is simply the male version of a Negative Nelly: someone who is able to co-opt my positivity and instantly put me in a bad mood. 

It all started when I arrived at the store to pick up my pizza wearing workout clothing and running shoes (I had just finished a quick run). The young man behind the counter asked me, “So, did you just leave the dentist?”

You see, I actually get this question a lot. My craniofacial condition causes one side of my face to appear “puffier” than the other (à la Ashley Judd). Additionally, my lip has a bump on the right side and both are more pronounced when I’m flushed (my face turns redder on the puffy side) and with my hair pulled tightly back in a ponytail.

As soon as he asked that question, I internally groaned, “Again? Really?” And then I thought to myself, “Does one usually dress this way and sweat quite so much after leaving the dentist?! Srsly!” 

Sure the question is innocent enough, but it assumes a lot. I liken it to asking a woman wearing an empire-waist dress if she’s pregnant: People, it is just not a safe bet! If you’re wrong, you’re inevitably going to hurt that person’s feelings. But I knew in that moment, I could either let it get to me or try to handle it gracefully. Honestly, I failed on this occasion at being graceful, because I meekly sighed, “No,” with what I can only imagine to be a look of defeat on my face, grabbed my order and barely made it out of the store before letting a single hot tear drop out of my eye.

Of course I knew my response was not how I should have handled it. It was not empowered and frankly, not acceptable to who and what I want to be. 

So, I’ve asked myself, what will you do the next time it happens? I am slowly learning that grace under fire does not mean that I resign myself to eeking out an apologetic “no” – which I genuinely used to believe would guilt the offender into realization that (s)he hurt my feelings – but rather I should be prepared, especially as an adult, to combat questions, comments and stares head on and face first. 

Grace under fire means being ready with a polite, positive, and firm answer that returns agency to me as an individual. What I should have said was, “No, I didn’t just leave the dentist. (Pause) Say, have you heard of CCA Kids? We help kids with craniofacial differences find support and acceptance. I’ll bring you a poster next Friday and maybe you can hang it up.”

As a cranio adult, I find it is much easier to speak on behalf of someone else, but when it is me, I think, “Oh, I’m not different enough to make it an issue,” or “I’m not a good enough representative to speak for CCA,” but that’s a cop out. Every representation of difference has to face questions from the world and thus, I realize I need to challenge myself: promoting acceptance does not just happen in September or when organizing a fundraiser; it includes, and even requires, answering the tough questions with grace, dignity and decisive action. 

Being prepared with a chipper segue and a sincere call to action simultaneously eases the sting of the unexpected comment and demonstrates acceptance to someone clearly lacking in the tact department. At the very least, turning the conversation to something larger than my looks empowers me and rebalances the dynamic of the conversation. 

As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” and likewise, no one should be allowed to ruin my runner’s high. Feeling good about myself isn’t simply a matter of appearance, it is how well I handle life’s tough situations.

Please comment if you have other suggested positive responses I could use the next time someone asks, “Hey, did you just have dental work done?”