It’s okay to be different!

It’s okay to be different – this is something I’m constantly reinforcing with my 6-year-old, Oli. Oli was a late talker, for no particular reason, he just was. He is our first born, has no problem with his ears (or eyes for that matter), but just was very late to talk. When other kids were spouting six-word sentences, he was saying two. Everyone said, just wait, he’ll be speaking in full sentences soon, but that time just took a lot longer than normal, to come.

He had the funniest names for things – a banana was a ‘ma’, water was ‘doggodoh’ and the television was a ‘bouffe’ and he also used to call himself ‘Adi’ instead of Oli – we have no idea how he came up with these words, but he used them! The other day I was telling Oli about all these funny things he used to call certain items and he was in absolute hysterics. He asked me why he called the TV a ‘bouffe’ and the best way I could explain it, was to say, ‘you were just different, that’s okay’. I can assure you he calls a TV a TV now, at six, and he has an amazing vocabulary. He speaks in full sentences using verbs, nouns and adjectives correctly, but sometimes he doesn’t speak as clearly as the other kids his age. I need to continually remind him (and me!) that every other kid in his class has two years on him with his speech!

Oli started speech therapy in the beginning of 2017 and has grown in leaps and bounds since then. He goes for weekly therapy and it’s definitely something we’ll continue as he enters Grade One. There’s such a stigma against any kind of therapy, I find, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting a little extra help in whatever area you may need. Don’t be embarrassed to seek help. Don’t be embarrassed that your child may not be at the same level of his other peers. I’m reminded of a saying I saw years ago when I struggled initially with the fact that Oli wasn’t quite as fluent as his friends: “A child is like a butterfly in the wind. Some can fly higher than others, but each one flies the best it can. Why compare one against the other? Each one is different. Each one is special. Each one is beautiful.” – Author Unknown.

Between therapy, reading a variety of books that were recommended for him by his therapist, and constantly engaging in conversation with him, he can only improve and go from strength to strength. He received an outstanding report at the end of 2018 that literally had me in tears I was so proud. This year our sweet boy will learn to read at school, which I cannot wait for, in fact they have already started with reading!

It’s our job as parents to build our children up, to encourage and celebrate their differences – whatever they may be, even if it’s hard at times. Remind yourself just how boring the world would be if we were all the same! No two children are the same, even if they are siblings. Remind yourself, and your child, that it’s okay to be different! Have you watched The Greatest Showman? These lyrics really hit home for me. Everyone is different, not to be judged, and special in their own right, let’s celebrate that and encourage a culture of acceptance. I want my children to live these words –

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me”

This is Me

Keela Settle – The Greatest Showman ensemble

I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are

But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh

Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades and
Reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that’s what we’ve become (yeah, that’s what we’ve become)

I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh
This is me

and I know that I deserve your love
(Oh-oh-oh-oh) ’cause there’s nothing I’m not worthy of
(Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh)
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
This is brave, this is proof
This is who I’m meant to be, this is me

Look out ’cause here I come (look out ’cause here I come)
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum (marching on, marching, marching on)
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I’m gonna send a flood
Gonna drown them out
Oh
This is me.

Songwriters: Justin Paul / Benj Pasek

Photographs by the phenomenal Corinna Tannian Photography.