Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What Is Wrong With Chocolate Barbies And What Is Wrong With That Boy?

I have mentioned before, and I will say it again - my six year old, So and my almost five year old Ro, could not possibly be more different.

They are like Oscar and Felix of the odd couple...

So is a hot mess. I have considered taking stock in "Shout" stain treatment, just on behalf of So alone. Her clothing seems to be a magnet for anything "dirty" she will come in contact with. I am pretty sure I have sent her out for the day in a white shirt, although it usually comes back a myriad of color shades. Her room actually
becomes the laundry hamper, and I have already gone through two sets of winter accessories this season, due to her tendency to lose things.

Ro probably has obsessive compulsive personality. From the time she could talk, I had to wash her hands an estimated every three minutes during any given meal. She lines up her flip-flops and crocs neatly on the side of her bed. She is not enamored when her blanket comes untucked from the sides of her bed. She actually asks me to have her hair brushed and reminds me if she has not yet brushed her teeth. When she returns from school, she places her mittens inside her hat, and then places her stuffed hat into the sleeve of her coat. It is a little freaky actually.

One other thing that makes them so different -

So may notice some obvious things around her, but she is mostly oblivious. Although, whatever she has picked up on, you will know about it, because she will talk your ear off about it.

Ro notices EVERYTHING, although you may not realize, until she finally comes up with the most unusual terminology to describe what she noticed, which may take weeks later.

This became apparent to me, a couple of years ago when
Ro was referring to a trip to the library that she had taken a few weeks prior. She was talking to me about the lovely lady that helped her, and I asked which one.

"The one with the chocolate face, Mommy."

This, of course presented itself as a teaching opportunity for me. I went on to explain that while people come with different skin color - we probably should avoid referring to someone as "chocolate face". And all people, no matter their skin shade should be treated the same, with the same
respect and care.

Of course,
Ro has a barbie with a darker shade of skin and she calls it her "chocolate barbie"

And more recently, she noticed that while her brother Ate, ended up with black boots this winter and her sister So has brown boots this winter, she has boots in a lighter taupe shade. So it goes without saying, that she will make a
proclamation that, "So and Ate have chocolate boots and I have vanilla."

Okay... phew.... that is literally just an ice cream reference.

But most recently, another teaching opportunity for
Ro presented itself, and I really wanted to make sure that she gets it. Because I remember an incident when my naturally curious younger brother was five, watching him be berated by a complete stranger when he asked "what is wrong with your child"?

On Sunday,
Ro attended a birthday party for a little boy from her class who was turning five. When we arrived at the birthday location, while all the other children were running in to exchange greetings with friends or running directly to a table filled with snacks and treats, Ro entered the room as she usually does. She walked in very cautiously, taking in the environment she was in, making her observations, getting a feel for the people and her surroundings, and then she stopped in her tracks. And she asked,

"What is wrong with that boy"?

And as we stood in front of a boy who was extremely handicapped and sat in a customized wheel chair, I explained. Some babies are born with very bad boo-boos and they can not do all the things that healthy children can do...
But I specifically wanted to show her that he is still a child with a heart and a soul and should not be treated differently than another child she was meeting for the first time, so I said, "
Ro would you like to say hello"?


So she walked up to him and waved.

Now when I say this boy is severely handicapped, I mean - there is no knowing if he notices that a five year old girl is waving to him, or if he can hear her, but that is not the point.
Ro is treating him as any other child.

So I said, (on behalf of
Ro), "This is Ro and who are you"?

Of course, I said it loud enough so that his father and someone I suspect was a Grandmother, could hear, because I suspected he would not answer. However, I specifically directed the question to him, so
Ro will not assume in the future, that all children in wheelchairs can not answer for themselves.

And the Grandmother responded, "This is Y. He is S.'s (birthday boy) older brother."

Ro said, "Hello Y."

And then she was ready to join the other children three feet away, already deeply engrossed in some cape making project, and I left.

Ro is no stranger to "disability". She has a girl in her class with Downs Syndrome. Although this lovely girl is quite high functioning, and Ro is probably none the wiser anyway. The important thing is, I know that Ro actively plays and socializes with this classmate. She also has an Uncle she is close with who has cerebral palsy and walks with a walker. She sees him on a pretty frequent basis, and we already had discussion about Uncle T. in the past. But, I don't assume that because of her exposure to "disability" she will automatically extend herself to someone with extra needs. And I do not want to stop at just being "knowledgeable" about the existence of those with disability and special needs.

When Uncle T. was living in the East Coast and attending an all male high school, he had some experiences that boggled my mind. These experiences, unfortunately, are too many to mention. But one that stands out in my mind, is one boy in particular who saw T. coming towards a door (slowly, with his walker) that he was currently holding open. He actually waited until T. was quite close to the door, and then , only then, he let the door swing shut before T. made it through and stood laughing on the other side.

Incidences like this were not exclusive to that one boy - T. attended a school full of these boys. I was in shock. I could not believe there was a neighborhood of parents who neglected to teach their children such important lessons in life. And I knew later, it could not be chalked up to just 14 year old boys behaving badly. Because when T. moved to Chicago and attended a new school the next year, not only did he not have these experiences, the boys were actively extending themselves towards him, even when they saw him out of school. (Points to the parents in Chicago).

It is not enough for
Ro, or any of my kids to just recognize the existence of "disability", I want them to learn to extend themselves to someone in need.

But I want to make sure I explain it in such a way that my child never refers to someone in a wheelchair as a "rolling boy".

And never refers to someone with
orthotics on their legs (as Uncle T. has) as "metal legs".

I am looking for some good books about children with "
disability". But not something like, "Timmy Rides A Wheelchair" or "Debbie Has A Funny Face".

Trust me, these books about the obvious exist...

I want a book that offers up the opportunity for my child to learn what he/she can do to be helpful to someone with special needs.

Anyone know any good books that go beyond the obvious and offer valuable lessons?

1 have shown Orah a little love:

Heidi @ Tayterjaq's Rebels said...

I have actually not ever seen any books like that. Someone should probably write some.
I will keep my eye out and let you know if I happen to see any. Have you checked your local library?