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To the Mother at Target Whose Child Was Curious About My Dwarfism

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I saw you run into Target this morning as I was heading in behind you. You looked busy! I could tell your mind was racing through your list, making sure you grabbed everything before you rushed off to the next errand with your cute child in tow.

You might not remember me, but we both were in the dairy aisle and your child saw me. He was curious and asked you, “Mom, why is that lady so small?”

You didn’t hear him, so he asked louder, “Mom, why is that lady so small?”

You didn’t hear him again, so he shouted, “Mom, why is that lady so small?”

I looked over, and you were so mortified. My heart broke. You hushed your son, grabbed the milk, and pulled him out of the aisle. You left so quickly I didn’t have the chance to let you know it’s OK. I wanted to tell you I run into this situation all the time, mostly out shopping.

Kids are innately curious. They’re trying to figure the world around them, and they want to know why things are the way they are. Your child is not the first, and I’m not embarrassed by your child asking.

This situation has happened more times than I can count, and I’m always amazed that kids ask the same questions each time.

Why is that lady so small?

Is she a mommy?

Why does that mommy have a big head?

Can that mommy drive?

I know you’re busy and don’t always have the time to explain everything to your child right when they ask you. You probably didn’t think this trip to the store was going to involve a teaching moment about explaining differences. You were just hoping to remember everything on your list. I get it. However, if you don’t mind on your drive home or before bed tonight, can you explain my difference to your child? Children need to learn that being different is OK.

They’re going to run into so many people in their life who are different from them, and through my experience (although I’m not a mother), answering kids questions when they occur and modeling behavior is key. Children look to you as a model to understand differences and how to act in those situations. Differences shouldn’t be ignored but celebrated because we’re all a little different from each other in some way or another.

Now I can’t speak for everyone who has dwarfism, but through my experience when I have had the opportunity to explain differences to kids, I have found a few similarities in their curiosity:

• Kids aren’t as interested in labels or terms as much as questions about what I can and can’t do. They don’t care as much about the fact I have dwarfism or achondroplasia as much as they care about if I drive, how I live in a house by myself, or if I’m a mommy.

• It’s important to reinforce the disability or difference they see is only one characteristic of the person. I have likes, dislikes, and live life just like any other adult.

• It’s important to explain people with disabilities can do many of the same things, but it might take them longer, and they might do them in a different way or use assistance.

• In my opinion, I love it when parents encourage kids to ask me questions. Not every person may be comfortable having a child ask them questions, but I love it. I’ve had many parents come up to me and say, “Excuse me, my child has some questions for you about your disability, do you have time?” I think it’s polite and always gives me the opportunity to decline if I don’t have the time.

• Finally, kids don’t always understand that staring is rude, it’s just a way they work out their curiosity. Teach them that it’s OK to ask questions but guide them in how to ask.




The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: April 12, 2016
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