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My Kids With Disabilities Aren't Here to Teach You About Kindness

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When you’re the parent of kids with disabilities, some moments are just heart-aching. This is one of them.

My two boys, Arshaan and Jahan, live with Jansen’s metaphyseal chondrodysplasia. They are one of eight people in the world diagnosed with this rare condition. A few days ago, they both had the best time playing with their buddy Cade. Cade, along with the boys, are three of only four kids in America living with Jansen’s disease. So whenever they meet up, it’s always tons of fun. But tonight, the little boys were called upon to be more than just buddies. They were forced into an all-too-common situation where they were called out for being different.

It all started when a little boy chased after them calling them “weird” and “ugly!” Arshaan, my 10-year-old, kept telling him to “stop” many times, but the jeering and pointing continued. All three of the boys tried to get away, but it was no use. The words came flying with more hate.

Jahan, 8, was confused, and slowly becoming filled with anger and pain. But oh, sweet Cade! He was crushed, absolutely head-hung-over distraught.

The author's kids sitting at a table, one with their head down, sad

As the boys sat down to dinner, Jahan quickly realized their buddy’s hurt was deep. He slid closer to his friend — and making light of his own feelings, tenderly said: “Don’t worry bro! We’re here for you! We’ve got this.” While Jahan soothed his buddy, Arshaan gallantly walked up to the mother of the boy who upset our evening.

“Excuse me,” he politely interrupted. “I want to tell you that your son wasn’t very nice to my brother and our best friend. He called us ‘weird,’ and we are not weird. We are a little different because our bones are shaped differently. It may also seem ‘weirder’ for you to know that there are only eight people in the world with this disease. But guess what? There are four of those people in this restaurant right now. (He points to me — catching me in between paying for my order and secretly listening in on the conversation between my 10-year-old and a shocked open-mouthed adult woman!). My mother is the fourth. That’s not weird. That’s pretty awesome!”

Needless to say, the boy’s mother came over with her son and apologized, letting us know, “That is not how we raised him!”

It was a “happy” ending and definitely a teaching moment.

But honestly, we are not here for everyone’s “teaching moment,” for someone to swoop down and feel good that they did the right thing.

We are not here as guides to your moral compass.

We just came in to have a meal, to have a nice evening, not to have our little boys deal with feelings way beyond their age.

You want to gut special education programs and the Special Olympics because there’s enough philanthropic money to support it? Well this evening is testimony to the fact that we need to build stronger, more inclusive societies. It is testimony to the fact that maybe a lot of adults need to go back to school and get the “Be Kind” 101 course. The battle is far from over and every day there are new scars these children have to heal from.

Sure, we are proud of our boys. We’re proud of their courage, their ability to put things in perspective, their strength of character. Yes. Yes. Yes. But let them be kids, even if they don’t look like others. Let them run around and play, even if they don’t run like others. Let them have their burger without having to teach you to “be kind.”

So please, get it straight.

Kindness starts with you!

author's kids and Cade smiling, arm in arm

Originally published: March 28, 2019
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