To the lady at Disneyland who put me in tears: My daughter is not a freak.
To the window washer guy who came to our door: She doesn't just "seem" to have pretty eyes. Maaike has beautiful eyes and that isn't the only thing she's got going for her.
To the mother at Coy's swim lessons: Don't punish your child for being brave enough to ask me about Maaike instead of just staring. When you punish him you teach him not to reach out, not to connect, and that there is something shameful and wrong with being different. Being different is beautiful.
To the other kindergarten mother: Having a healthy baby isn't the only thing that matters. What matters is that no matter how they come they are ours to love, care for, and cherish.
To say that we were not prepared for people's reactions to Maaike is a gross understatement. I could not have fathomed the things that a few people have said. On the drive home from our Disneyland trip we were at our tipping point. The pointing, the staring, the waving their friends over to gawk, had brought us to our edge so when we stopped into a restaurant to grab a bite to eat and over heard a woman say to a man, "OMG. Did you see that baby," we were ready to snipe back, "Maaike do you see that crazy lady with red glasses and ugly hair." Definitely not our best moment, but a needed release and catalyst for our new stratagem.
Years ago I was moved by the story of a neighbor of ours who had two special needs children. Their oldest daughter was born with Trisomy 18 and miraculously lived til she was almost 16 years old. Their 4th daughter was then born with down syndrome. On one occasion she was out with both mentioned daughters as well as their other 3 daughters when someone pulled up behind her vehicle and yelled at her for parking in the handicap parking when she was obvious perfectly ambulatory. I think she had every right to lose her cool, but instead she walked over and lead the passenger out of their car and over to her van's side door to introduce her daughters. They apologized.
Learning a lesson in grace from our neighbor's reaction, our new approach is to step forward and introduce our dear Miss Maaike, because the moment you meet her you can't help but fall in love. I am still in process of summoning the courage and holding back the tears, but it feels right and absolutely imperative for Maaike to know there is no need to shy away from outside world or fear what ignorant people might say. Being different is beautiful.