“My 6 year old son, Grant, has a large port-wine stain birthmark on his face. His birthmark has not bothered him that much over the years, however, in the last year (kindergarten) it really has and he’s said he wishes he didn’t have it. He isn’t bothered by what it looks like… his pain comes from strangers constantly asking him ‘what happened to his face’ or ‘what’s wrong with his face,’ etc. He has his canned response, ‘It’s just a birthmark,’ that he used to say very matter-of-factly, but lately he’s been saying it in an exhausted manner because he’s just tired of having to explain it to everyone he comes in contact with, and people saying things that maybe they don’t realize, but are incredibly hurtful (like a medical tech at the doctor’s office who after Grant said it was a birthmark, said, ‘Oh, I thought you got punched in the face.’
This past school year, during class, he got a bathroom pass and went to the bathroom. A kid who he’s never met before was in there and per usual, asked what happened to his face. Grant did his usual response. But this kid did something different. He then said, ‘Well, your birthmark is really cool.’ And then asked Grant if he gets hurt feelings from people asking about it or making fun of it. Grant said, ‘yes,’ he does. The kid then looked at him and said, ‘Stick up for yourself, kid.’
And just like that, Grant felt supported, cared about, and that this random stranger had something ‘nice’ (his words) to say about his birthmark, and this made Grant so happy. He had the biggest smile on his face telling me this story.
This kid has more kindness, empathy, and emotional intelligence than many people quadruple his age. With all the challenges in dealing with mean kids that hurt others’ feelings, wow, does this kid give me hope.
I was determined to find this amazing kid (he didn’t get his name or grade level), so that he (and his parents) could hear about his compassion and kindness (and frankly, I just wanted to give him a giant bear hug because I was bawling tears of joy for about three days after this happened.) It took us several week to figure out who he was, and I reached out to his parents to share what happened.
I thought for sure this kid had to be in 4th or 5th grade by his maturity and social confidence in reaching out to Grant. Well, was I really, really, wrong. His name is Tucker. Tucker is in 1st grade. Yup. 1st grade. According to his teacher and his parents, (who are amazing, by the way, and just as touched by this entire thing) he’s *incredibly* shy… a gentle, introverted and reserved little boy. A boy who felt compelled to break his shyness to reach out to Grant, because he has experienced sad feelings too when kids have made comments about him. A kid who told his parents he made a new kindergarten friend that he met in the bathroom, and described him as having ‘white hair’ (he didn’t even describe him as the ‘kid with the birth mark’). A kid who is in the before-school care with Grant, whom Grant never noticed because Tucker is so shy. And now? Two boys, new friends, and play dates being coordinated. Tucker is excited to have Grant over and splash in his pool. Grant is trying to negotiate meeting at a park since he’s scared of dogs and Tucker has one. Regardless of where or when they get together, my heart is happy seeing these two boys together… a friendship that started with empathy, courage, and sincere kindness from one kid to another. Let the fun begin!”
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