The boys and I were at the grocery store this afternoon, and as usual Alexander excitedly pushed Christopher around and caught the eyes of a few shoppers. There were two in particular who were extra curious, a boy and girl close to the ages 3 and 6. The little girl watched Christopher with curiosity as we zoomed by grabbing a pineapple and plums.
I heard “mom, that looks like a wheelchair” coming from her as they began to pass us on the other side by the butter lettuce and bell peppers.
What came next from mom surprised me…”shhhh….just keep walking.”
Just keep walking? This was most definitely not what I expected and immediately I felt a twinge of sadness in my chest.
I wanted to turn around and say this:
It’s okay if she’s curious. It’s okay if she wants to know why he isn’t walking. It’s alright if she talks to him, in fact it’s welcome. He’s a little boy, just like your little boy. He’s sweet and charming with the most adorable grin. He loves Bubble Guppies and pulling his big brother’s hair. Please don’t tell your children to just keep walking. In that one sentence you just taught your daughter to ignore someone with a disability, to ignore someone who is different. You taught her not to see my son.
Now I don’t know if mom helped explain his need for a wheelchair on their way out of the store. I can only hope she did. I can only hope that she assured her children that people come with many different abilities, and we can embrace each other’s differences.
Parents, please teach your children that being different is okay and it’s more than okay to ask questions.
Help your kids make sense of it all, because if you don’t, who will? They need you to help them understand.
If you don’t have the answers, all you need to say is “maybe you should talk to him?” We all know that moms love to talk about their kids, and as a mom of a child with special needs we won’t pass up a chance to advocate and teach others. I don’t have all of the answers but I will be more than happy to try to answer any questions your kids may have.
Please encourage them to walk up to us and have a chat.
Teach them acceptance not ignorance.
Show them love not avoidance.
And most of all, don’t tell your kids to simply keep on walking with their questions swimming in their heads.
Start the conversation and please let them see my son.