01/03/2013 12:14 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Little Paw

There are moments with Ella and her little hand (she was born with just one) that make me stop in my tracks because I am laughing so hard. When she makes the dogs kiss it. When she tries to fit a wreath cookie on it. When she used to suck on it loudly in public.

There are other moments when I smile at her determination. When she is handed a second toy and immediately tucks the first one under the crook of her left arm... followed by three other toys. When she "reads" a book by using her wee little wrist to turn the pages. When she swipes to turn on my iPhone with her little hand (because I'm pinning her other hand to keep her away from my phone.)

And there are other moments that are really hard for me as a Mom.


Recently, we took a trip to NYC on a rather frigid day. Since little Ms. Ella chose to throw her mittens out of her stroller at some earlier time, we stopped at a Christmas fair and picked her up another pair. These happened to be adorable, baby bear paw mittens. We bought the mitten clips because we figured it was a certainty that they would be headed for an NYC sewer grate in the near future. What we didn't expect was what happened. Ella looked at her right hand and laughed at the paw, but then she turned to her left "paw." She gasped and stared. She turned her left paw back and forth. She grinned broadly as she poked at it with her right paw. She was fascinated because suddenly she had two hands.

It was one of those moments that hits you like a freight train. We've watched her examine her left hand before. She clearly sees that there is a difference, even if she can't understand it. She tests it on everything. She tries to eat food with it. She protects it with her other hand. She makes you kiss it. It has never seemed to bother her but in that moment, she was ecstatic because she had another hand.

Ella is only 14 months old, so I seriously doubt this is a case of her wanting to fit in, or wanting people not to look at her. She was simply mystified because she had never seen herself with two hands.

We are in a somewhat sheltered place right now. She is too young to hear the questions and comments. She is surrounded by people that accept her. She has no idea of any difficulties that await her. Knowing tough moments will become more often in the future is difficult, but for now, I'm focusing on the present. I'm enjoying the innocence. And when those moments come, we'll handle them like we handle everything; with love and laughter (and a few expletives when Ella is out of ear shot). And as she gets older and hits her own frustrations, we'll be there as she wants to vent or cry. We'll give her space if she wants it. We'll be there to talk her back up. She will encounter narrow-minded or mean people in her life, but she will know that those people are few and far between. She will know that her friends and family will always be in her corner -- many willing to go have a little "chat" with the bully at school -- and that she has whatever support she needs.

And in the meantime, I'll continue to laugh as she giggles and shuts off the stereo with her little hand just because she can... and because it makes Daddy crazy.