A few weeks ago, I ventured out to a local playground with my three daughters. Ash and Wren are identical twins, and Phoenix has Down syndrome and alopecia areata. Because of the unique makeup of our family, we get noticed, a lot.
We generally have very positive experiences at playgrounds since other children will invite Phoenix to play alongside them. This time was no different. However, just before we left, an older boy who looked to be 8 or 9 looked at Phoenix and said to me, “She’s creepy!”
Because I’m also a teacher, it’s very natural for me to correct other children’s behavior. So even though I wanted to cry at the cruelty she was just exposed to, I replied somewhat angrily, “That’s not nice! You don’t call people creepy because they are different. She’s beautiful. It’s mean to say that.” Then I took Phoenix home.
I stewed about the incident for a while then decided to write a post for my local moms group — not to attack the kid, he was a child after all — but to educate the moms and to encourage them to initiate conversations with their children about how everyone is different and that different is beautiful. I also provided some information about alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition that causes your hair to fall out. The post was very well received. We had hundreds of comments and positive words of encouragement.
Weeks later, I had brought Phoenix with me to a local store. A little girl passed us while walking with her mother. The girl pointed to Phoenix and yelled, “You’re bald! You’re bald!”
The mother turned right to her daughter and replied, “What did you say? That girl has alopecia. You say sorry right now.” And then she marched her daughter right up to us to apologize, which we graciously accepted.
When I think about this incident, I still want to cry because it so clearly illustrates to me that educating others about disabilities and differences works.
It made a difference in how that mom parented her daughter and initiated conversations on a wider scale in our community. It provided understanding about differences. And it left me proud to be a member of a community that is obviously open to learning.
Follow this journey on Celebrating Phoenix.