"People, please teach your kids not to be jerks. Please.
This is my son Zack. He's seven and getting ready to start second grade. He has a limb difference, which means not having part or all of a limb. As you can see, Zack's right hand is not completely formed. We call it his little hand because...well...that's what it is.
We adopted Zack when he was two and we honestly thought his limb difference was no big deal. We've spent most of the last five years telling him to 'put that down' and 'stop climbing that.' He plays soccer and flag football. He does martial arts. He colors. He helps me in the kitchen. He carries his own laundry basket from his bedroom down to the laundry room.
Tonight was Zack's 'meet your teacher' night. He'd been telling me for weeks that he was afraid to go back to school. I brushed him off and it wasn't until about thirty minutes before it was time to leave that I actually focused on his concerns. Because I'm busy. Because I'm being pulled in a gazillion different directions.
Because my limb difference child is normally confident and gregarious and I really don't think of him as being different.
'People who are new to my school might stare at me and ask me questions about my little hand.'
'They might,' I answered. 'That's pretty normal, don't you think? Your little hand is pretty different than what most people are used to seeing. It's okay if they ask questions, right?'
He paused. 'Yes. It's okay if they ask questions but I get tired of saying 'this is the way I was born. Is it okay if I'm tired of answering questions?'
'It's okay that you feel like that,' I answered. 'But people who don't know you are still going to be curious.'
'Please don't let them be mean to me, Mommy.'
This is the part of the story where my heart sinks to the pit of my stomach.
After some prodding, my son revealed to me that some kids taunted him at daycamp this summer. He's a sensitive kid, so it's hard for me to determine whether or not it was taunting or just curiosity, based on second hand information.
Here's my take-a-way: Ask questions and be curious about people who look different that you look. But before you stop to ask questions, consider that there is a living, feeling person on the other end.
And, if you have a child who is different, in any respect, keep paying attention to what they're experiencing, thinking, and feeling. Their perception of being taunted or ostracized MATTERS.
And please...don't let your kids be jerks. Talk to them about differences and inclusion."
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