Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Day My Kid Called Out a Blind Person

Act #99:  Help them broaden their definition of beauty.

Mom, check out those metal detectors!  Yep, that's exactly what my 5-year old blurted out with excited enthusiasm when his eye caught two people with metallic, extended poles in front of them.  But oh, no, it didn't stop there.  Why are they wearing sunglasses inside mama?  Mind you, these comments were not whispered curiously into my ear.  They were blurted out loudly....in front of the two visually impaired individuals approaching us.  So as a mom, I've been cautiously expecting this moment ever since my son began talking.  I knew exactly what I would say if he ever asked me why someone was "fat", why someone's skin looked like "chocolate", why those two women were kissing.  It would be a "teachable moment" and I would not shush him with embarrassment (because size, skin color, and sexual orientation are nothing to be ashamed about), but I would calmly explain to him that people come in many beautiful varieties but we all have the capacity to love in the same way).  If the recipient of these remarks looked appalled, I would apologize respectfully and explain that my son had just begun to notice human differences and that I would make sure that he understood the beauty and value in such differences. I would later explain to my son proper social etiquette and that next time he had a question about somebody's physical appearance, it may be better to wait until we get in the car when we were in private, because we wouldn't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable.  My son would grow up to be the most considerate, loving, human being who embraced all differences. 

Not quite.  Here's what really went down that day.

Mom, check out those metal detectors!
Jack, those are not metal detectors.  Don't you need to go to the bathroom? (as I hurriedly drag him to the bathroom)
Why are they wearing sunglasses inside mama?
Son, come with me to the bathroom right now!

Not quite the life-changing "teachable moment" that I had envisioned.  While I thought I was prepared to have an honest conversation to my kid about physical size, race, and sexual orientation, I was completely stumped when faced with an individual with physical limitations.  I did try to recreate that teachable moment later at home when we googled why visually impaired people wear glasses (to protect their eyes from the sun), and looked up pictures of metal retractable walking canes (almost as cool as metal detectors by the way).  We talked about how it made more sense to say visually impaired (quite the mouthful for a 5-year old) because blind doesn't quite encompass all the different ranges of sight limitations.  We also had an in depth conversation about causes of blindness, whether or not people were born that way, what may have caused them to lose their sight, how they got around if they couldn't drive, and how on earth they watched Sponge Bob if they couldn't see. 

And I still managed to get in one tiny shining parental moment when I finally had the chance to calmly explain to him that which could not be Googled:  People come in many beautiful varieties but we all have the capacity to love in the same way.


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