Yesterday, we celebrated Memorial Day at my aunt’s house. The grown-ups chatted on the patio while the kids (Gracie and Jackson and two girl cousins) played outside. The girls had their shoes off when we got there, and Jackson quickly ditched his flip-flops. Before I knew it, Gracie had taken off her shoes and socks too and was walking through the grass barefoot. Because you have to let kids be kids sometimes, and because my aunt and uncle have a beautiful manicured lawn, I let her go without the shoes.
When the kids came in for lunch, I sat down with Gracie and helped her eat. It was then that I noticed all the cuts and scratches on her legs and feet. She was wearing capri pants, not long pants, and the exposed part of her legs was scratched on both legs. She, of course, did not know there was anything wrong. Sigh…
I washed off the scrapes and put long pants on Grace, and admonished her not to go outside again without shoes and socks and gloves. She complied, happy to be able to play with her cousins and happy to be outside.
Gracie took her gloves off when we got home — this is a common practice, since she’s fairly unlikely to get cuts and scratches on her hands at our house. Some time after we got home but before bed, I noticed blood on a finger. She had torn off a fingernail. To be fair, the nail was half dead anyway because of a prior mysterious injury, and I’m sure the dead part caught somewhere and just ripped right off. This was not a self-inflicted injury; Grace had no idea it had even happened.
My husband was horrified at the loss of the fingernail. He was shaken up at the second reminder in one day of Gracie’s disability. Losing a fingernail should be very painful, but Gracie didn’t even know it had happened. After he had made comments to that effect, I realized Gracie was listening, and tried to talk to her about it.
I told Gracie that we were sad because she didn’t feel when she hurt herself. I told her we felt sad because we didn’t want her to suffer. Her next words stopped me in my tracks — Gracie interrupted me and said, “Am I suffering?” I asked her if she was and she said no.
Truly, she isn’t suffering. She isn’t feeling the tremendous pain she should be feeling from tearing off a fingernail. She isn’t wishing she had a different life, or wishing her body worked normally, or missing the vision she’s never had, or any of that stuff. She is a happy, smart, sweet, sociable, loving kid. She’s not suffering.