We feel so grateful to have Aunt Jenny in our lives! Born on my 3rd birthday, my sister Jennifer has been one of my closest friends throughout my life. She is an amazing, generous, capable, brilliant person. On multiple occasions she has watched all of our kids while Christi and I have been on vacation. She loves our family and we love her! This is a journal entry she wrote about sweet Sophi. Thank you, Jen, for the empathy, concern and service you continue to show our family!
Christi told me something Sophi said the other day and it still has me contemplating all the hidden lessons within the simple sentence.
So Sophi has no arms. This in and of itself is a challenge that no one with arms can even begin to wrap their heads around. Observing Sophi, helping Sophi, and loving Sophi have given me the barest inkling of what life without arms could mean to a person, but I would never deign to claim I have any idea of what she faces each and every day.
But not having arms was apparently not enough of a challenge, so she also is missing a bone in one leg which means that one leg is weaker and shorter than the other. And as she grows taller, the discrepancy between the two legs is growing more pronounced. In order to walk, she now has to walk on the “tip-toes” of the shorter leg so she can attempt to match leg lengths and have only a slight limp instead of a very pronounced one.
But not having arms and having uneven legs was apparently not enough of a challenge, so she also has severe eczema and her legs have patches of dry, itchy, uncomfortable skin that no amount of creams and tinctures can fully eliminate.
However, having said all that…the amazing part about being around Sophi is that you eventually don’t see it. She’s just Soph. She’s not “the girl without arms” or “the poor little thing.” She’s Soph and mostly you don’t even see her as different…she’s just Soph!
And because of this, it can be easy for me to forget the challenges she must face. So when Christi told me this story, at first I, like Christi, had my heart break.
Christi said she was with Sophi and Sophi was scratching the eczema on one leg with the toenails of her other foot. I wasn’t there for the conversation, so I don’t know exactly where it took place or what Sophi was wearing, but since she was scratching her skin, I picture her with her little legs exposed. Maybe she was changing into her PJs. So I picture sweet, little Soph standing with bare legs. And without a shirt on, the armlessness of her is infinitely more poignant. So I picture her, standing there as she scratches the eczema on one leg with the toes of her shorter leg, perhaps wobbling a bit because she doesn’t have arms to help her balance. As pathetic as Sophi is NOT, this image does have the heartbreaking ring of something pathetic to it…she can’t even scratch her own leg with the solid force generated from fingernails attached to fingers…to hands…to arms. And Christi said that as Sophi was scratching her eczema thusly, Sophi said, “I wish I had a different life.”
At which point in the story, my heart breaks and I just want to burst into tears and curse a plan that makes an eight-year-old feel this way. And I loathe myself ever so slightly for any time I have wished for things to be different in my life because what in the world do I have to complain about? And I want to scoop Sophi into my arms and hug her and love her and tell her it will all be okay, whether or not I believe this.
And all these emotions and thoughts run through my mind in the millisecond before Christi finishes her story. Christi answered Sophi at the time, “Oh, honey, why do you wish that?”
And Sophi answers, “Because I had Vanilla Life cereal and I like the regular flavor better.”
And after I stopped laughing over the utter darlingness of this story, the lessons it teaches started flooding in. First of all, whether or not Christi was consciously trying to be a good mother, what great mothering skill she displayed! She didn’t jump in with soothing words to ease Sophi’s pain over wanting a “different life.” Nor did Christi start in on a lecture telling Sophi to appreciate what she already had and stop wasting time wishing for something better. (Not that Christi would ever do that…but some parents would!) Christi didn’t assume to know what Sophi needed…she asked. She probed deeper. She first sought to understand why Sophi said what she said. And got a delightful and unexpected response in return.
And think of Sophi’s response! Think of her standing there scratching her eczema on one leg with the toes of the other…no arms…somewhat helpless…and not caring! She wasn’t focused on the eczema she was scratching with her toes…she was thinking about breakfast cereal! It’s priceless. The lessons! The perspective! I don’t really know why this story had such a profound effect on me that it is still whirling through my brain. Perhaps because too often, I wish I had a different life. But it is not cereal about which I am wishing. It is wishing for Tiffany to be back…or more money to buy a newer car…or a brain that doesn’t forget things so easily…or nieces or nephews that lived closer…or…whatever.
And Sophi’s sweet, simple, almost silly comment has renewed my efforts to focus on what matters most, enjoy the amazing life I do have, and not waste time wishing for a different life, cereal or otherwise!