Maybe I’m Not Understanding Something Here

In surfing around to many of the blogs that I read, there has been a lot of talk about differences and children and the inability of adults to deal with differences — physical or mental differences, I mean.

1. Gina goes on an entirely appropriate WTF rant about some stupid people in the UK (Profanity ahead)

2. Some people in Oregon don’t understand why a 16-year-old is at a Blazers game
3. And my Plurk-buddy Rocking Pony reminds herself to take it easy on herself and forget about what other people think about her “baby” on the occasion of his 6th birthday

Maybe I’m missing something, but aren’t we supposed to be raising our children to be loving and accepting of everyone? Isn’t that a given? I mean, for good God’s sake, we put a man whose mother was white and father was African in the White House. Am I missing a fundamental disconnect out there?

If that boy who wandered away from the Blazers game was, say, a “developmentally normal” 5- or 6-year-old, would people be questioning why he was at the game? If that woman on the British TV show were… I don’t know… Chinese or black, would outraged parents be calling in to have her removed because she could scare their kids? (And if so, shame, shame, shame on them.)

I have a very precocious 4-year-old child. She points; she comments; she asks questions (like many other precocious children out there). I am frequently a touch embarrassed by her inquiries or comments, but I usually simply say, “God made everyone different, Monkey.” I know I will have to start explaining things to her soon. Here are a couple of examples I have been thinking about.

At a local restaurant we visit, one of the hostesses is a midget — or little person, if you prefer. Monkey has pointed to her and said, “Look how puffy her belly is, Mommy.” I’ve asked her not to point, and I’ve said my line from above. The girl (she is a teenager) seems to take it in stride. But I know that soon Monkey’s going to ask why the girl is so short, or why her belly is so puffy. If I simply say, “Because she is a midget, or a little person” I’m sure that will prompt some other questions. “What’s midget mean?” “It means very short.” “Why?” “Because God made her that way.” “Why?”

See where I’m going?

We have a teen boy at our church who has severe developmental problems; he is in a wheelchair; he can’t talk except to groan; it looks as if he has mental challenges as well as physical — my heart goes out to him and his parents every Sunday. What do I say when Monkey asks what’s wrong with him? What’s the most appropriate thing? I can’t say “Nothing.” That would be a blatant lie. I could say, “I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. He still deserves our love and respect as a person.” Would that be all right?

I’m an information person: the more information I have the better (this drives DearDR batty and it’s one of the reasons I love Lost homework). When it comes to my children, it’s difficult for me to stop explaining things. But I try to remember that there is only so much 4- and 2-year-olds can process. I want to be honest, but I don’t want to be simplistic, I guess.

What do you tell your children? If you know someone differently-abled, what does that person want to hear parents tell their kids?

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Side note to H: Thank you. For coming over with your son for dinner; for hanging out and appreciating some wine and pesto tortellini; for cleaning my kitchen and picking up after the kids; and most of all, for taking three boxes of 18m clothes for your daughter. Love you. Next time, we’ll let the guys clean up & put the kids to bed, and we’ll go out with A for a drink!