Cruella de Vil … Skunk…
Those were just two of the names I got called growing up. But really, when you have not one but two natural white streaks in your hair, it’s not all that surprising.
I was about three years old when my parents saw my hair go white. They had no answer for it. It wasn’t until the age of seven when areas of my skin whitened as well that they realized more was going on.
Conflicting doctor’s opinions didn’t help matters. Now we know that I have vitiligo, a condition in which the cells that produce melanin die or stop functioning. But as a child dealing with it, it wasn’t always easy.
People made jokes, calling me ridiculous names and making me feel like I didn’t belong or didn’t fit in. There were many who looked past it, but there were those who couldn’t, hence the jokes.
This year, my husband and I found out we’re going to have our first baby and we couldn’t be happier. But I worry for this child. There is only a small chance that he or she could inherit the skin condition, but I still worry. Kids can be very mean. Being different in any way can make it hard, because so many don’t understand that there’s nothing wrong with it. They think that being different is a good reason to make fun of someone.
Whether or not my child has my skin condition, I’m hoping he or she will be different. Different in the ways that counts – by loving and accepting people for who they are, and not judging people on what they look like.
I want my kids to make a difference in this world, and they can. But it starts with my husband and I. As a first-time parent I know it may not be easy ensuring our child is so tolerant, but it’s one of the most important things that can be taught. Everyone deserves love and friendship.
So, as this school year unfolds, I ask you to please, remind your children that we are all unique in our own way. Some of us show it on the outside, others on the inside, but regardless, we all need acceptance and love.
As I prepare for this new addition to our family I will always remember those that loved and accepted me, despite being different, and I pray that I can teach my child to do the same for others.
Kelly Dowswell is a soon-to-be mom and our layout genius at The Journal