Today Hurt, Please Teach Your Children About Differences
We went to a new church because our oldest son was speaking about his camp experience. The church dismissed for children’s church and I walked my three youngest to the children’s room. As we walked in the room, there were four tables full with kids. The minute we walked inside, the room became silent and every child stared or pointed at my son, Joel. Joel was born with a cranio-facial impairment. He is missing an ear and some bone structure. I know he looks different, but today hurt.
I stood at the door and watched every child look with eyes wide and mouths open at my child. I stepped in and was about to address the entire class about differences; but then I stopped. I stopped and looked to the back of the room where my son fled to hide. He had buried his head in his arms because you cannot hide in plain sight. My heart sank and the room remained silent as I walked back to Joel. I touched his shoulder and he raised eyes shiny with tears and a face red with shame. I knelt down and asked, “Do you want to leave?” “Yes,” he whispered, and he stood and ran from the room.
I held him in my arms during church and he wrote, “Joel loves Mom” on my palm. Tears welled in my throat. My beautiful and loving son deserves so much more than stares and pointing. And I thought about what I didn’t do in that room today. In the past, I have always stepped into the role of teacher to educate kids. This has happened before, and I would step in and talk about differences, but today I did not. Today, I did not teach someone else’s kid because I was too busy holding my broken-hearted son.
So I ask all parents this: teach your children.
Teach your children that many people look different. Show them pictures of people who look different. And then explain that it is not OK to stare at someone who looks different, it’s not OK to point. Teach them that my boy is the same on the inside as your child is. He loves “Dodge Ram” trucks, and “Minecraft” and digging in the dirt. He loves ketchup, but does not love broccoli. And mostly, he does not like people staring or pointing out that he looks different. I don’t think he needs this pointed out, it’s something he lives with every day.
I am not angry. I do not think these were bad, mean children. I think no one has ever taught them. And so I am asking you to take a moment tonight and talk about what to do when you see someone who looks different. Show them pictures of people with different colored skin, different eyes, different abilities to talk, walkers to walk, wheelchairs to roll. Show them children with no hair, without an ear, without an arm. Take a moment and share all kinds of different.
Teach your child that a beautiful person is found with the heart; not the eyes.
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