Being teased can have a long-term impact on a kid, as Midwest native and Indiana University grad Lori Orlinsky knows.
She was bullied in her youth, and was inspired to write a children’s book when her daughter, Hayley, was teased for being short. When Hayley uncharacteristically refused to go to preschool one day, Orlinsky knew something was wrong. Orlinsky drew upon personal experiences to write Being Small (Isn’t So Bad After All), to show her daughter all the reasons why it’s good to be different.
Did your daughter immediately tell you why she didn’t want to go to school?
I had to pry it out of her. She was ashamed. After a long talk, she told me there was a growth chart decorating the class, and she said, “I feel different from my friends.” It was the first time she ever felt different, and I think that it was the first time her friends realized she was different, too.
You tried to find a children’s book about being short, but couldn’t find any. Is this when you decided to write your own?
I can’t describe how much of a defining moment it was. In that moment, I felt like it was my purpose. I’m so excited that the book has not only made a difference in the lives of my children and other short children, but it’s made such a difference in the lives of any child that feels different. It’s crazy to have something good come out of something so sad.
After your daughter read the book, how did it impact her outlook?
Seeing the pictures and seeing the narrative come together really did illustrate to her that she has these special things that no one else does. Now she looks at her life through a different lens. She’s really proud of being the only one who can squeeze through the monkey bars at recess. It made her such an empathetic, kind child. She’s always the first one to say, “I want you to be my friend.” She understands their struggles because she went through something like that too.
How can children be proud of being different?
The first step, whatever situation you’re facing, is self-acceptance and talking through all the things that make your child feel special. After you’ve conquered the self-acceptance phase, then you move into self-confidence. You’re less inclined to be bullied because you have an aura of confidence around you. As I began writing the book, I noticed that you could sub “short” for so many other qualities kids have. The underlining message is that every person is unique in their own way.