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05 October 2009


Amie R.

I think you handled it fine. There is a guy that goes to the same coffee shop that we do that has severe deformities. Our boys are very timid around him. We go up to him and talk to him and try to encourage the boys to talk to him too. They are getting more and more comfortable around him. We just answer their questions matter of factly like it is no big deal. "Yeah, that's his feeding tube. That is how he eats his lunch, because he can't swallow very well. Cool huh?" Staying calm as you say and just describing what they are seeing back to them without acting like it is anything significant. Obviously, you had to react to the situation because your child was reacting to the situation. There was no chance to prevent the situation or prepare her. Maybe now after the fact, you can show her some pictures of kids that look different so some of the shock value can wear off and she can become more comfortable with the images. Our kids have had a major advantage in this area because we take them to the camp David and I met at and they have seen a lot of the differences in the kids that come there. So they have had the opportunity to process some of those things just by chance, and I am so thankful for that experience for them.

As far as the children's parents go. I think about how I want people to react to my family being different, and I would like parents to normalize our family to their children. I think you did just that. It's not like you could take her up to him to talk to him and facilitate that interaction while she was still terrified. You did what you could to let her know everything was okay.


When my oldest was about Sprout's age, I was friends with someone whose twin nieces both had Cerebral Palsy. I didn't know until we all met for a playdate. The girls were about a year older than Mack, and it really scared her at first. One of the girls had a milder form of CP, and the other's was pretty bad, couldn't talk well, etc. Both were confined to wheelchairs. By the end of our visit, they were all having a great time, but I realized that I needed to work with Mack on accepting differences, (this was prior to our family becoming multicultural, it was just Mack and I at the time). We started doing volunteer work with a few local agencies, helping with play therapy, etc. It was really good for my daughter, and for the kids that she became friends with.

After this I also started to realize that she wasn't being exposed to children of other cultures nearly as much as I felt she needed to be, the area that we lived in was primarily white. I signed her up for a local summer camp that was made up almost completely of children of Asian, Hispanic, and African American decent. She was one of two Caucasian children in the entire camp, of 150 or so kids.

Now, Mack is one of the most accepting people that I know. She is friendly with everyone. I think that by talking, and praying for the people that are different then they are you have started a great thing with Small Sun and Sprout. That is one of the greatest things about being a multicultural family by being different you are more accepting of everyone else.


I agree with Amie that you did exactly the right thing given the circumstances you described, and the fact that Sprout is now working her way through the experience also is healthy and good.

I also like what Kelly had to say about doing volunteer work with (handicapped?) children, or the elderly, etc. It's really what you have been doing all along regarding ethnic and cultural diversity.

There is in life, I think, a healthy tension -- it sometimes seems even a paradox --somehow between creating a world for our children that is safe and good, surrounding them with beauty, order, health and happiness; and their need (all of our need as adults as well) to be exposed, in due time, to situations in which they learn sensitivity, compassion and caring on a larger scale; to direct the health we cultivate in them into a lifestyle of giving rather than guarding themselves/ourselves from the reality of life for so many that includes deformity, poverty, aging, dying, etc.

The healthy tension also lies somewhere in the timing, so that a child is not overwhelmed with more than he or she can process. I know that empathy, respect, sensitivity are very much your intentions and aspirations, and you are already far down that road; this experience just suddenly catapulted you a few unexpected kilometers. I know the fruit will be good!


PS Just another thought on the empathy bit: Sprout is still quite young, but introducing conversation about how another child feels, looking as they do or being handicapped in some way, imagining being in that child's situation can help to replace the fear with the awareness of that person as a real human being.

I have watched A and J use this approach quite a bit even in situations involving showing respect to adults and it seems their child honestly "gets it" in such a way that it's not robotic proper performance but is genuinely motivated by an understanding of the human dynamics of the situation.

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