Slide12 Building Blocks of Realization (Published in 1999)
“Building Blocks of Realization”
by: Gaill Blackburn

As Published in the
AZ Chapter of Little People of America (LPA)
VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 – SEP / DEC 1999

I really don’t remember either my husband, Bret, of myself “batting an eye” when we were told that our daughter, Britney, was an achondroplastic dwarf at 3-1/2 months of age. We were told by the geneticist, Dr. Aleck, that she would have normal (if not higher) intelligence and an average lifespan – she would simply be small.

Having gone through a full array of reproductive surgery, infertility treatments and a high-risk pregnancy – we considered Britney our “miracle baby” from the onset. I only gained 8 pounds during my pregnancy (the first 3 months I lost more than I gained the entire pregnancy – morning sickness is the worst). Eventually I was eating like a horse, but for the first time in my life it was all “healthy” food – for the baby. Friends commented on how small my belly was – I rather liked the idea of having a “petite” girl – little did I know!

Britney ended up “frank breech” and we went to the hospital for an external adversion 3 weeks prior to our due date. The doctors then found that she had less than a teaspoon of amniotic fluid left – had we waited another day, we more than likely would have lost her. She was delivered by emergency C-section and weighed in at 5lbs-7oz, 18in. long. Yes, Britney was small, but boy-oh-boy was she a fighter!

Our little girl is now 2 years old – it is amazing how quickly time flies… We wouldn’t change anything about her – and we revel in her determination and self-reliance already demonstrated at such a young age. She is so happy and outgoing, and she delights many.

We decided that it was time to have Britney evaluated by a pediatric orthopedist who has dealt with alot of dwarfs. Dr. Kopits was completely booked, and besides, thoughts of traveling across country were a bit intimidating. So we decided to hit the west coast and combine Britney’s medical appointment with a much needed and long overdue family vacation…

We met with, and I would highly recommend, Dr. Vernon T. Tolo at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. We also did all the usual things that vacationers do… Britney got to see the ocean for the first time and immediately fell in love with the waves – she kept screaming for the next “big one”! We had done all the usual pre-planning via the web, and decided that our “big” family outing would be to go to “Legoland”. It seemed like the perfect choice – it was designed specifically for children ages 2 to 12 and their families. We had our 2 year old – so we were ready!

Legoland is no different from other theme parks – expensive. We waited in line for our tickets with the other family we had traveled with (they had an average-height 2-1/2 year old). We were even armed with walkie-talkies so that the 2 families wouldn’t lose each other in the crowd. We waited in line (for what seemed like forever) for our first ride. It was a very “tame” safari ride where the child sits beside the parent and you cruise past Lego animals.

Finally, it was our turn! We were greeted by the Legoland “Model Citizen” only to be informed that Britney did not meet the height requirement (36 inches) for the ride… [Reality slap in the face]… “She’s 2 years old – isn’t the park geared specifically for 2 year olds?” We asked to speak to management and told our friends to go ahead and go on the ride while we rationalized this out with guest services. We explained that “we were her parents and would never let anything happen to her”; “we would be sitting right beside her the entire time”; “we know her medical considerations and would only let her go on the rides that would not harm her”; “sitting down she is the same measurement as any other 2 year old”; etc., etc., etc…

Management was accommodating, but explained that the rules were for everyone’s safety – there were 3 rides that those under 36 inches could ride with parents (wow – 3 out of the whole park). They also explained that it was a very interactive park with many things to do other than rides. Then they said that they would give us 1-1/2 hours to “see for ourselves” at which time we could get our money back. That sounded fair…

So instead of using the walkie-talkies to keep the 2 families together, we used them to avoid each other! We decided that it wouldn’t be fair for Britney to see her friend getting to go on all the rides that she couldn’t. We had 1-1/2 hours to decide, so we walked through the park and found ourselves in “Miniland”. Then it hit me – how fitting for us to end up in “Miniland” with our “little mini”. I couldn’t hide the tears – they were pouring down my face and no matter how hard I tried – they wouldn’t go away. Why was I crying? What was my problem? Here we were in one of the happiest places in the world for a kid – my daughter was having a blast – and here I was crying. Then I remembered what my friends of older dwarfs had said – it doesn’t hit you all at once – it hits you in spurts. I guess this was my first big spurt…

Well, 1-1/2 hours went pretty fast and it was time to decide whether we wanted to stay or to go… We knew that Britney loved the ocean so we asked her if she wanted to go play at the beach or to stay at Legoland. She emphatically stated that she wanted to stay and ran off to play with another interactive toy. My husband, Bret, said that we could go to the beach and get our money back, but that we would probably still be miserable – I think that it can be pretty easy at times to wallow in self-pity, if you let yourself. It wasn’t about the money either – it was the principal of the thing…

Then we realized that this was the first of many tests that would be thrown our way throughout Britney’s life. What did we, as parents, want to teach our child? Did we want her to learn that if you don’t quite fit in that it’s okay to feel sorry for yourself – or did we want her to learn that it’s okay to be different and that you can always figure out how to make the best of any situation…

Well, we decided to stay – and it turned out that we all had a fantastic time. I think Britney already has the coping skills built in – it’s Mom and Dad who need to keep up the pace! Legoland turned out to be the perfect place for us to build the first block of realization – and we’re now ready to see how high that tower of blocks can reach. We’ll aspire to teach Britney that the sky is the limit.

Slide21 Building Blocks of Realization (Published in 1999)

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