Drew loves to play with other kids. Close friends/family members or perfect strangers, makes no difference to him. And, when he is introduced to a new kid there is no doubt that the kid will ask about Drew’s arms and legs. This was the case yesterday at the YMCA park as Drew looked up to a 6-7 year old boy. The boy remarked, “He has short arms.” I responded with the same answer I always give when kids inquire: “He was born that way and is just special.” And, the boy had the same response as does every other curious kid: “Oh. OK.”
Shortly afterwards, the boys caretaker (not sure if she was the mother or grandmother as she was one of those in-betweeners who looks to young to be a grandmother and to old to be a mother) apologized to me for her kid’s inquisitiveness. Although her apology was completely unnecessary, I politely accepted and make sure to reassure her that I wasn’t offended any way and am happy to answer question. After all, I don’t find anything to be offended about. Drew does have short arms. He also has blonde hair, brown eyes and the most kissable lips. To me, his short arms are just as much of a unique feature to Drew as is dimples, naturally curly hair, or the ability to curl your tongue is to everybody else.
Even though she commended me for my kindness, I hesitated to wonder why it was a “commendable” reaction to the boy’s statement. I don’t know about every other mother’s and father’s feelings on the matter of having a child with a special need, but I don’t think it’s anything to be embarrassed about and if people weren’t curious about a boy whose arms are short, then I’d wonder what drugs they were on. I mean, it’s not everyday you see anybody with such a striking feature. (Or strikingly cute!) I mean, the “short-arm” population in our parts is pretty slim! But, as has been my experience, kids ask about the short arms and move on without a second thought when they meet Drew.
In fact, the only negative attention that Drew has ever invoked came from adults. So sad for our society.
What I find most awkward about the situation is when a parent gets onto his or her kid for asking. I don’t think their kid’s question or comment was offensive but I don’t want to question the parent’s authority in front of the child so I’m conflicted whether to take the parent’s side and let the lesson be absorbed (which I feel so bad for embarrassing the kid) or defend the kid’s actions by reassuring the parent that it’s OK and no harm done (which diminishes the lesson the parent was attempting to instill.)
So, I would like everybody to know that it’s totally fine to ask me about Drew and you need not be apologetic or surprised that I find Drew’s situation so natural. Let your kids ask their questions. It is my hope that the kid will understand and then tolerate differences more. Later, take the time to explain that sometimes, things happen when babies are in Mommy’s stomach that makes them come out different, but it doesn’t make them bad or unequal, just unique. And, because to the child, having short arms or whatever the case may be, is “normal” to them they learn how to do everything in their own way and though they look different on the outside, they are completely the same on the inside.