MeMo: Snowflakes Understanding Our Unique Self
Each snowflake is one-of-a-kind. Snowflakes help us to understanding our unique self and appreciate how we each view the world and operate in it. It was the spring of 2022 and one day, my daughter sat down and peered at me, her golden, green eyes penetrating my soul. I could feel a hard question coming.
“Mommy,” Sissy began, “why am I different?”
I knew what she was asking. She wanted to know why she was so full of emotions, had a hard time calming down, needed tight hugs for reassurance, and needed so much emotional support. Her brothers were not like her, and she knew it. I looked at her and thought to myself, “How can I help her understand her unique sense of self?”
I took a deep, steadying breath and began, “You know how all snowflakes are unique with their own individual shape?” She nodded and listened intently as I continued on. “We are all like snowflakes. Some snowflakes are sparkly, dull, or shiny. Each snowflake has its own unique shape and purpose. No snowfall is exactly alike. Some snow is softer and powderier, while other snow is firmer and more frozen.”
“To build a snowperson, you need ALL kinds of snow. Every single snowflake is important. And when the snowperson is made, it doesn’t matter what kind of snow you are, you are needed and important to build that snowperson. We need all different types of people in this world, too.”
She pondered my words and grinned. “So, I’m a sparkly snowflake?” she said. I replied, “Yes baby, you are SO sparkly. You are different than your brothers and your differences are to be celebrated. You love animals and share your feelings, making this world a more understanding and loving place. I care more about animals because you shared your love of them with me! You help me understand how important it is to care for the planet so we can keep your beloved animals safe and preserve their habitats.” Seemingly satisfied with this explanation, she gave me a big hug, smiled, and went on to play.
I sat there for a moment, hoping that my words were the reassurance she needed. I knew that question would be coming at some point, but I can say I was not prepared for it when it came. Reassuring my children is not something I take lightly. We all have our own insecurities and my way of helping them cope and understand these things is to not tell them it will be “ok” or things are “fine.” I try to relate to them and let them know it’s ok to be scared, different, and not fit any one mold. Even I get scared and have the same feelings and thoughts sometimes.
I cannot promise my kids that every day will bring sunshine, but I can teach them how to dance in the rain.
It’s now a full year later and we are in an intense three-month therapy program for our daughter’s Sensory Processing Disorder/Differences (SPD), which is on the Autism spectrum. A year ago, we were just learning the words to understand what exactly SPD was and what, if anything, we could do to assist her. Sis just knew she had big emotions, and we had done everything we could to help her self-regulate including breathing techniques, creating a calm down corner and basket with sensory-type toys, as well as finding things that would soothe her physically like a hammock, hammock chair, swings, and more.
As we began to learn about ways to help Sissy, we began to give her the words to communicate her needs to others.
When we were full-time RV’rs, we were constantly meeting new friends on the road. Sometimes this was tricky for Sis because she would get overwhelmed and need a break from the socializing and fast-paced environment of the campground. When she got overwhelmed, I helped her explain to others that she needed time to be by herself and when she was ready, she would then come back and play. This was a gift.
Neurotypical children would previously get their feelings hurt, wondering if they had done something wrong and why Sissy didn’t want to play with them. No more. Now Sis had the words to explain that she liked playing with the kids, but she needed some quiet time to be by herself and that when she was ready to play again, she would reintegrate into the group.
Once Sis had the words to explain her SPD, I saw her, with confidence, explain to her friends what her needs were, express them, then reintegrate when she was ready. Again and again this built confidence in our sweet girl. As her parent, watching her successfully define her needs and communicate them to her peers brings so much joy to my heart. She was able to navigate a social situation independently and I am so proud of her! She was advocating for herself and finding her voice, even when she was nervous.
I can’t say I have all the answers in life, but I am open to learning every day. Each day is an opportunity. Understanding the needs Sis has and how to assist her has been a journey. We didn’t have all the puzzle pieces, and likely still don’t. What I have learned along the way is that I had some of the pieces, but didn’t know how to put them together because there were many medical professionals that told me there was nothing “wrong” with my child. Correct. There is nothing “wrong.” She processes things differently. Having SPD isn’t “wrong,” it’s different.
There are pieces to this SPD puzzle I noticed early in life and was able to teach Sis how to adjust for. Where we are at today with her food and emotional needs, I had no more tools in my toolbox to know how to help, which is why we are so grateful for Occupational Therapists (OT’s) who specialize in their field to help individuals who process things differently. They help me understand that neurodiversity is not only a gift, but a necessary part of the world. One OT told us that as they worked with a client, the individual said that maybe they wanted to be a food scientist or something in a food-related field, like a chef because they realized that their relationship with food was unique, which was a gift for creating flavors and combinations with food.
When people see things differently, they cannot unsee what they have seen. They operate in a new way in the world. Just like taking a trip or a vacation to experience a new culture or place, your capacity is stretched. Sis has helped us stretch our capacity of understanding. She continues to wow me with the way she functions, creates, and understands the world. I am often stopped in my tracks to think about something so simple she says, but so eye-opening to me as I learn who she is and how she operates.
We are all snowflakes. We are all unique. We all have our own characteristics. Be true to you. You are loved. You are beautiful. You are not alone. We are all snowflakes understanding our unique self. Let’s make a world of amazing snow people together, one snowflake at a time.
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