“Why did God want me to have a little arm?” She asks me this while she plays with her tub of sand, only her profile turned toward me. These questions come in the everyday moments—while I get dressed or put away groceries or while we brush our teeth.
Our daughter has what some might consider a disability. She has one normal arm with a hand and five fingers and one little arm that stops an inch after the elbow. She was born this way.
During the early days with her, I wondered how she would do routine tasks that I depended on two hands to do—washing my hands, holding a bowl, pouring a large bottle, cutting paper. It turns out that with a little creativity and a lot of gumption many tasks become quite doable.
Before meeting her in China, her little arm was something we thought about quite a bit. Would we need to get a prosthetic? Would she need a lot of extra help? Would people stare and would kids be rude to her? Once we met her, we hardly noticed her little arm anymore. It’s so much a part of her. I think about it less than I think about the random mole on my face.
Sometimes I have to pay attention to new kids we meet. Sometimes they have a difficult time with her little arm.
It’s different, which means it’s scary or weird or uncomfortable. Sometimes kids run away screaming. Sometimes kids say rude comments. Occasionally, I engage the kids, encouraging them to consider what is different about themselves and that different doesn’t always mean bad or gross.
Usually, our friends have no trouble accepting the “little arm” into the flow of life. My daughter has several young friends who play all day with her, completely accepting her as she is. She has this smile that lights up her entire face and dimples that delight. She is engaging and energetic and full of spunk.
Once, we encountered a little girl, maybe around five years old, who didn’t want to stop staring at my daughter’s arm. I think she asked me a question about it, but she spoke a different language, so I couldn’t understand. She had a sweet face and seemed genuinely intrigued by the only one hand situation.
My daughter, however, was quite uncomfortable with being the focus of the stares. She climbed into my lap and hid her arm against me. Then I noticed the little girl wore hearing aids on both of her ears. I whispered this information to my daughter, explaining that the little girl probably couldn’t hear well without the hearing aids.
I wanted her to know that other people have differences, too.
Early on when we brought her home, we talked about her little arm as special. One day she asked me if I was special, too. I told her that yes, I was special too. She looked at me dubiously and said, “How? You don’t have a little arm.” Maybe she has a point.
Recently a new friend of mine came to visit. She met all of my kids and then sat in the living room. After talking to my daughter for a minute, my friend turned to me and said, “I didn’t notice her arm earlier. She has so much personality.”
Imagine that. A beautiful, engaging, big (and sometimes very loud) personality that eclipses the physical. Isn’t that what we want for our children?
For who they are to shine brighter than just what they look like?
“Why did God want me to have a little arm?” Her question is valuable to me.
“I don’t know exactly why,” I said. “But I do know that God does good things. I think He has a plan for you and your little arm.”
“And God knew you wanted a little girl?” she likes to ask this question as well even though she knows the answer.
“Yes, He did. He knew I wanted a little girl.”
“Like, He knew your name?”
“Yes, He knew my name and exactly who I am and exactly who you are,” I answer her carefully before my throat tightens with love and wonder. She’s finished with the questions, ready for the next activity.
Oh, sweet daughter, may you know exactly who you are, little arm and all.