That Agape Family

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Tag: respect

It’s Not Polite To Stare

“Mommy, why did the woman say ‘it’s not polite to stare’ to me?”

“Who said that?” I asked.

“The woman pushing the wheelchair,” Little Miss replied. 

Ah. The moment of clarity. 

Today, we decided to head over to the Markham Fair. We had never been to this time honoured tradition, and we decided to give it a last-minute whirl. Folks, we had a great time! There was lots to see and do there. There were plenty of animals to see. We got to ride up in a cherry picker (the machine that allows the hydro company to work on hydro wires)! And, they had a demolition derby (that we unfortunately weren’t able to attend). It was great. 

Today was the first day of the fair, and there were lots of school children there. It was also “homeschooling day”, so we got to see some of our friends, too. There were also several people there with special needs. Fantastic! I have worked with individuals with special needs, and I know the need for these folks to get out and enjoy a community event. Wonderful! And, it appears my daughter (4.5 years young) was curious. 

We all have a natural curiosity to those who are “different”. It’s human nature. Children are trying to make sense of the world, and in this case, she was trying to understand why a person was in a wheelchair. I’ve been behind the wheelchair, dealing with the curious stares. You want your client to be respected. I understand that. However, I think that this could have been taken as a learning opportunity, rather than a scolding. 

My daughter did not know it was rude to stare. Again, she 4.5 years old. She did not mean to be rude, but it clearly came across that way. Instead of scolding her, the caregiver could have said, “he (or she) needs help to get around. That’s my job. They aren’t able to walk on their own, but they still want to see everything that you do!” Connection and dignity go a long way on this two way street. I also told Little Miss that the nicest thing she can do, if she sees someone in a wheelchair, is smile. There’s a takeaway that she can carry with her for the rest of her life, as opposed to being scared to look at the people around her. 

When I was in grade 6, I experienced a pivotal moment. I was doing a biography on a classmate, so she came over to my house. When her family came to get her, her brother came to the door. He had Down Syndrome. I suppose I asked something insensitive like, “why does he look different?” I really can’t remember. However, I do remember her explanation. 

We were in the gifted program at the time. She explained the situation that we (students in the gifted program) had an IQ of 101. Other students, in the regular stream, had an IQ of 100, and her brother had an IQ of 99. This was not (and I didn’t take it as such) an explanation that he was “dumb”, but that he thought and processed information differently. So, when I was speaking with him, I may have to choose my words more carefully so that he understood me. I found her explanation to come from a place of love and respect. 

As I grew older, and I took psychology courses, I learned that the IQ disparity was greater, however that didn’t change how I viewed those with special needs. They are people who deserve love and respect, and who are all too often underestimated. This is something I want to pass on to my daughters. I don’t want them to be afraid to interact with these individuals. This is an opportunity to show love and compassion! 

So, let me encourage you to view every day as a teaching day. Help those around you, especially these precious little ones, to make sense of what they see, through eyes of compassion and love. And I hope and pray that the next time she sees someone in a wheelchair she won’t avert her eyes, but meet those eyes with a smile. 

Blessings,

Liz

When You Assume…

The other day, the littles and I were attending a birthday party. One of the parents was chatting with Little Miss, and asked if she knew when her birthday is.

But, before she could respond, the parent said “of course you don’t,” and turned to speak with someone else. I was flabbergasted. Little Miss is nearly 4.5 years old, and has known her birthday month for probably about a year. More recently, since this birthday party situation, she has also learned the day.

I’m not saying this to brag about her ability to know her birthday, but to ask folks to please not assume that kids don’t know. Children have varying talents, learning experiences, and interests. You never know what a child knows, unless you ask, and wait. Give them a moment or two to process what you’ve said, and formulate a response. You may be delightfully surprised.

When have you been surprised by a child?

Blessings,

Liz

Lest We Forget

This evening, my daughters and I had the privilege of planting Canadian flags on the property of Sunnybrook Hospital here in Toronto.

Remembrance Day 2017

Raise a Flag at Sunnybrook Hospital

This is our third year participating in this project. The goal is to plant 30,000 flags across the grounds, so that on November 11th, Remembrance Day, the veterans at the hospital will wake up to fields of Canadian flags and know that we will remember.

Although we’ve been doing this for a few years, this is the first year that Little Miss has had so many questions about war. Why do we have an army? Why do people fight? Why? Questions that really make you pause, and think.

I happened to have purchased A Poppy is to Remember (affiliate link)by Heather Patterson, way back in my teaching days, so we brought it out this evening to help explain.

poppyposter

Given that Little Miss will soon be turning 4, this was right on her level, and she wanted to read it twice! Although the topic of war is tough, I think it’s important, and possible, to address it on an age appropriate level. Do you have any other suggestions for books about, or related to, Remembrance Day?

Blessings,

Liz

A Hairy Situation

A few years ago, I was swimming at a public pool, long before I had children. I had just gotten out of the pool, along with all the other patrons, and I was in the change room. A gaggle of girls were also getting changed, around the age of 7 or 8 years old. I believe it was a birthday party.

In any case, after the girls were dressed, one of the girls started brushing her hair. No biggie, right? Well, apparently it was. Did you know that if you brush just the ends of your hair (you know, when you’re trying to get a knot out of your hair), that it can damage your hair and cause split ends? Well, I learned that little tidbit that day, and so did everyone else in the change room. This girl’s mom started yelling at her, explaining what she was doing wrong – in front of all her friends. She then proceeded to take the brush from her, and do it for her.

What caused me to remember this scene, nearly 10 years later? I was embarrassed and sad for her daughter. We try our very best to practice peaceful, respectful parenting. This one instance (maybe the mom was having an off day?) is one of the reasons why. I felt so bad that she was chastised in front of her friends, for such a silly, insignificant reason.

I want my daughters to have autonomy over their bodies. It’s our job to guide them. Sure, she could have calmly and quietly explained to her daughter why she should brush from the top down, but to demean her, then do it for her, stripped her of her autonomy, in that situation.

It is not uncommon for Little Miss to be walking around in a dress regardless of the weather. I encourage her to wear long sleeves and pants underneath in the winter. Today, a chilly, rainy day, she didn’t want to wear pants.  I asked her if she wanted to check to see how cold it was, and once she had done that, she changed her mind. But I let her choose.

Giving them autonomy over their bodies means that if someone tries to coerce them to do something they don’t want to, they will be more comfortable speaking up, and saying no. It also helps them understand why we dress a certain way for various climates, and helps them in their decision making process, allowing them to become more confident.

Blessings,

Liz

P.S. Here is a photo of Little Miss with her first French braids 🙂 They were, of course, at her request 😉

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