It was when we were playing at a local accessible playground and splash pad a few weeks ago that I realized it.
Eliza was bopping around in her chair, having the best time, when she rolled up to a mural drawing. The character in front of her was a little girl in a wheelchair. And it happened! Her face lit up in a way that I've never seen and she started yelling "Look!!! It's Eliza! It's Eliza!!"
She found herself, you guys. In that mural, Eliza identified with the girl in the wheelchair. They were the same. Kindred spirits. In a way that every other kid doesn't even consider when they watch tv or play with friends, Eliza doesn't see herself in others. Before even turning two, she knew she was different.
This isn't meant to be a sad story, I promise. Because it was a challenge to my mama heart. I wanted her to see herself in this world every day. Not once in a while. Not when we went to a special needs event. Every day. She is a normal little girl living a normal little life. And she happens to also use a wheelchair. I wanted her to feel a part of things. I wanted her to see herself as a part of everything life has to offer. I wanted her to not feel invisible.
This was the moment I started thinking about it.
Almost three weeks later I received a completely unexpected email that immediately had me looking for a place to sit down. They wanted to know: Are we free the following weekend? Do we travel?
..."well, yes and yes"...
"In that case, Matilda Jane Clothing would be honored if Eliza would join them to model for their next advertising photo shoot."
Feel free to read that again. I definitely did a good bit of pinching and rereading.
I mean, WHAT??? Matilda Jane?? THE Matilda Jane? The sweetest clothing company ever?? The one that I swoon and gush over? The nationally known line?? They want my girl??
Oh, and can I tell you the very very best part?
Matilda Jane wants Eliza to come... as herself. As a normal little girl, living a normal life, and who happens to also use a wheelchair. Bring her chair. Bring her braces. Bring her walker. Bring whatever makes Eliza, Eliza. Make her comfortable.
Y'all. My heart was a puddle. An instant puddle.
I'll let you catch your breath for a minute while I fill you in on an amazing thing about Matilda Jane. They (and many other big name companies like Target and Gap) are partners with the non-profit campaign Changing the Face of Beauty. CTFOB is an amazing organization, who's goal is to make the disabled community visible in the world today. Advertisements, entertainment, actors and so on shouldn't be solely represented by able bodied people. Just like it shouldn't be all skinny people. Or all white people. The disabled and special needs community is one that has been cast out, even while people of various races, genders, religions, sexual orientations, and so on, are finding their ground in the spotlight. Companies even cast able bodied people to pretend to be disabled! That's how crazy this is! It's why Eliza has only ever identified with a single drawing. It's why she stops to roll up to talk to anyone she ever meets in a wheelchair. They are an endangered species. They understand one another. Changing the Face of Beauty wants to change that. They seeks to include those with disabilities into the spotlight, right alongside everyone else.
Because this world belongs to all of us.
So for any company to partner with Changing the Face of Beauty or to even use anyone with a noticeable physical difference in their advertising, it's a big deal. These companies are to be commended for their inclusiveness and their recognition for the value of every life.
For Matilda Jane, the call was simple:
Eliza, you are beautiful.
Come as you are.
You're welcome here.
You're one of the girls.
I contemplated the opportunity for only a moment.
I thought of my daughter lighting up when she saw that drawing of "her"!
I knew immediately that there would be other girls that use leg braces, walkers or a wheelchair. They'd see Eliza in those beautiful dresses, and they too would light up. They are beautiful. They are a part of this world. They are visible.
So we said yes!! This weekend, the Wilders are taking on Chicago. We are beyond thrilled to have been invited by Matilda Jane. We can't wait for our little lady to show the world what beauty really looks like.