I’m not too confident around children. Their staring and questions make me uncomfortable – and when they get scared of my appearance, it makes me sad. I’m sure it’s a hangup from my childhood, remembering the way children treated me, and my clumsy and sometimes verbally defensive and persistent interaction with them.
Dinner one night before my birthday last year with Stella Young taught me something. A child was staring at us, two people who looked remarkably different. I grew uncomfortable but Stella smiled and said hello. She told me she often asks children whether they have any questions about her. I liked this approach, and made it a bit of a resolution to engage with children more, to hopefully make them more at ease around me and others with disabilities. And it’s children who will change the world.
On the tram on Tuesday there was a little girl who was staring at me so I smiled and said hello. She was such a cute poppet – she wore a pastel chiffon dress and massive Dora the Explorer sunglasses that kept falling off her nose.
She struck up a conversation with me – we talked about her party dress, her princess Barbie and her mum. I asked her what her name was – Angela, then I told her mine, she said ‘pleased to meet you Carly’.
Her dad told me it was her fourth birthday that day, and she said she was out with her daddy while her mummy baked her birthday cake and prepared for her party that afternoon.
As she got off the tram, she said goodbye, blew me a kiss and said I wish you were coming to my party’. I melted.
So cute, glad I smiled at her. And such a positive experience. I didn’t have to explain my appearance to her, but by simply talking to her and taking interest, she felt more comfortable sitting next to me.
It is often parents who shape their childrens’ beliefs and prejudices. This little girl was clearly raised well. We, with disabilities and visibly different appearances, can also help to shape children’s beliefs and acceptance. We don’t need to parent them, just educate them at a level they can understand, and show them we are friendly and willing to chat as much as ‘normal’ looking people.
Sometimes we can get so caught up in the things that make us sad we forget about the things that make us happy. On Tuesday night, I reflected on the day I’d had. Some of it was frustrating and I wasn’t feeling that confident about my ability – lately I’ve been second guessing myself. It was also a super hot day and I was quite sore.
And then I remembered – the lunch I had at Miss Chu’s with my friend, taking some photos of the scorching sky, and being on the tram talking to this little girl. I’d won her over and she wasn’t frightened. And that made me smile again. 🙂
My lovely friend and childhood behaviour consultant Nathalie from Easy Peasy Kids has written a guest post for my blog about children and acceptance. My blog is definitely not a parenting blog, but I think, after this story I’ve shared with you, her post is most relevant. Look out for it soon.
Thanks to Ben and Zoey for giving me permission to source and publish photos of their gorgeous girls on my blog. I never feel right publishing photos of children on my blog – so you’ve helped me out a lot. Much appreciated!