As my oldest child, Emma, grows she is becoming more aware of the culture and things around her, such as girls on television that look a certain way, commercials that advertise sparkly shoes, and the language she hears from peers. I worry about how this is affecting her perceptions of not only the world, but also of people who may be seen as "different". People like her baby sister.
Today, I had a chance to see how Emma's perceptions are developing. While out shopping at our local mall, we saw a young girl with cerebral palsy in a wheel chair.
After watching her for a few minutes, Emma turned to me and asked "Mommy, why does that little girl look so weird?"
The only thing I could think to say was that she was not weird. She was PERFECT. She was exactly as she was created. After a few minutes of talking about how it is not okay to say anyone looks weird because we are all different, I think maybe she understood...at least until next time.
You see this wasn't the first time this has been discussed with her. When around someone that may not be viewed as "typical" I firmly believe in answering questions about appearance or actions verses telling children to look away. Most of us with "special" kiddos also follow this practice and I hope one day the general "typical" population will also.
If a five year old in all her honesty and innocence (combined with the influence of television I am sure) is already beginning to make judgments about others, what hope is there for Eslea? Eslea is only nine months old and I find my heart breaking when someone uses the r-word anywhere around me. What about the day five years from now when Eslea knows what the word "weird" means? Or "different"? Or "ugly"?
I don't know how it will effect Eslea and most days I do not think about it at all...pushing it to the back of my mind where it waits patiently to thrust itself to the front again when given the opportunity.
Instead I am spending time focusing on what I can do today. What I can teach Emma. What I can teach the students I see at work. What I can teach our family and friends....about perfection.
Perfection. It comes in all sizes and shapes. To say that no one is perfect is just not true. We are born perfect and only after the influence of outside influences do we stray so far from that perfection. Starting even as early as age five....
I know I'm not the only one faced with this challenge of what to say to our kids so they understand that it's okay to be different. Enlighten me my friends. You know I love your words of wisdom.
Before you ask, yes, the song is Selena Gomez's Who Says. I don't care...I like the song. Plus, it's PERFECT for this post. Thank you very much.
Now, Monday is over people. See you on Tuesday.