Recently I met at Starbucks with a couple of friends of mine. One friend in particular was asking me how many more laser treatments I would need for my birthmark. Responding, I told her something like, "I don't know. I can stop when I want to stop or I can keep going. I had them as a child but decided to stop when I was about 11-years-old, and my mom said, 'okay', and let me stop. When I was about 18-years-old, I told my mom I wanted to continue - and she told me 'okay' again, and I continued." She said something to the effect of, "You have a good mom who supports you and your decisions."
And that's the thing. I do have a good mom. In fact, I have a great mom who supports me and my decisions...and recently, I've realized how I sometimes take her - and my dad - for granted.
Lately I've been reminded more and more about how blessed I am to have my parents in my life. During the last few weeks, I keep hearing stories of people who don't have such a great support system in their lives.
I have friends who don't want to go home, because if they do, they have to "deal with their family". I have friends who's parents aren't kind to them with their words, who put their child (my friend) down. My friends have parents who tell their children that they aren't pretty enough, thin enough, or that they deserve to become sick, they deserve to go through an emotional hard time, etc, etc.
The other week, I was with a group that included 6 of my friends (two friends are Deaf, the other four are hearing). We were trying to figure out who all wanted to go to Wal-Mart, so we asked both the hearing and Deaf friends in the group if they wanted to to to the store. If we all went, we would take two cars, as we all wouldn't fit into one. If some wanted to stay at the apartment until we got back, we only need to take one vehicle. One of my Deaf friends responded, "I don't need to go. I'm use to being alone. I'm use to my family leaving me out." Needless to say - we took two cars and made sure that all 6 of us went to the store together that night.
Two weekends ago I also went to see The Deafhood Monologues. The monologues included many true stories based on experiences and the history of Deaf culture and people, but one story particular stood out to me...and has come to my mind everyday since the performance.
The little girl was born deaf. She learned to do some sign language, but then her parents took her to a doctor who dubbed signing and ASL as bad. The doctor insisted that the parents push oralism and speech therapy on the child - and told them not to let their daughter sign or use ASL.
Her parents tried to get her to go oral, but she continued to sign. Her dad became infuriated and one day yelled, "Is she signing again?? Is she? Make her stop! Make her speak!...Is she signing?? Make her put her hands out!" So, the child was forced to lay out her hands - and bam! Her father took a knife and cut off all his child's fingers. (The child's parents went to jail.)
I listen to stories like this and my heart breaks. I listen to my friends talk about their strained relationships with their parents who aren't very kind, and I become extremely saddened. My heart has broken so many times during the last two months as I hear stories in class or through new friends. All the people I've heard share about their poor home life are such beautiful people, and I can't imagine how their parents don't see the beauty in their own children, or how they don't accept their child as they are. Hearing about all of these stories and experiences...I am reminded of how lucky and blessed I am to have the parents that I have.
When it comes to my health and to my body, my parents have never forced me to do anything I haven't wanted to do. Like with my laser treatments. If I want to have them, they're okay with it. My mom even drives me to and from - 3 hours each direction. If I want to stop the treatments, they are okay with that too. And when I was diagnosed with chronic pain at the age of 12? My parents made sure that I got the best treatment possible to help relieve as much of the pain as possible.
If I need help with friend situations or need advice of any kind, I know I can trust my parents. I know they'll think rationally and not attempt to feel bad about any of the situations. They try to encourage me through their advice. They're not afraid to be honest with me if I'm in the wrong or need correcting, but they correct me in love and in a tender way in hopes of helping me grow as a person through the situation.
My parents have let me travel the world without them since I was 15-years-old. They want me to travel, understanding that the world is a big and unique place. They've encouraged me to spend 6 months in London, and supported me when I wanted to go to Japan to help with the disaster relief efforts after the tsunami hit. Even though the tsunami and issues Japan was having with the nuclear plants and radiation made my parents a little nervous, they knew I felt like I need to go and they trusted in God to keep me safe.
When I decided to move to Germany for 6 months, my parents let me make my own decision and told me it was a good, once in a life time oppurtunity. When I decided it was best for me to come home from Germany 4 months early, my parents were once again in full support. They welcomed me home with wide-open arms and picked me up from the airport.
Whenever my parents see an area I become interested in, they encourage me to persue my new interest. If I enjoy a new hobby, they support me. My dad, after all, is the one who surprised me when I was 13-years-old as he bought me my first SLR camera - seeming completely at random at the time. I remember coming home from school, seeing a Nikon D50 on the table, and asking my dad, "Who's is that??" He told me, "It's yours." I don't even remember asking for a camera. Asking him tonight why he bought the camera for me, he recalled realizing my growing interest in creating videos and thought I needed a better camera to help me out in the new hobby. Little did he know how much photography would become part of my life!
And in college...Even when I change my major for the 3rd or 4th time, my parents always insist that they want me to major in what I love, what I'm passionate about, and what makes me happy.
My parents have accepted that I am living my life and am trying to live it to the fullest. They've stuck with me through the good times, and the most trying times. They even try to give me experiences that they possibly didn't have themselves as a child or young adult.
I just can't imagine having parents who don't accept me for who I am. I can't imagine having parents who ignore me, or force me to do things I don't want to do, or who make me feel ugly and awful about myself. I've been blessed with parents who are patient, kind, encouraging, accepting, and who have instilled that beauty runs much deeper than skin deep. They've taught me to be proud of who I am, even through my differences.
Thanks, mom and dad. Thank you for being great, supportive, encouraging, and loving parents. Thank you for being parents that I enjoy spending time with. I hope that if I ever become married, and have children, that I am half as great as you two.
Thank you for giving me a home that I want to return home to at night.
The Travelin' Chick,