This week, we feature Jen Lee Reeves, founder and writer of Born Just Right, a blog about her daughter, Jordan, who has a limb difference. We were so touched by her post about staring that we wanted to share it here! Thank you, Jen, for letting us share it! We hope this will encourage conversation about teaching kids to respect differences and ask questions if they are curious.
Can we raise children who choose to ask questions and speak directly to people who look or act differently? Can we have open conversations with our children to discuss why it can be so painful to whisper and point at people who are different or act differently?
I’m so tired of it.
Jordan’s tired of it.
Jordan is a rock star. She rolls with so many punches. But even she hits her limits with staring and questions. This week, she’s had enough of it all. This is a lifelong process for her. I know Jordan has to go through some really tough emotions and decide when she’s ready to just ignore the looks and whispers. But now is not the time. In the meantime, can we all just get over it?
People are different. And all parents need to celebrate and recognize differences are cool and not scary. They are worth talking about and not whispering.
Why do I feel like the only parent teaching this lesson? (I know I’m not. I’m just in a mood.) Where is the text book we all need to read to help us raise our kids to be kind and understanding people?
Jordan started a new dance class this week. For the first time in years, she’s in a class with boys. During the first class, the boys spent a good portion of the time whispering and staring at Jordan. I asked her why she didn’t confront them. She explained it felt embarrassing and she feels stronger when there’s another friend with her when she needs to confront staring.
Holding my crying little (but not so little) girl in my arms hurts my heart. This sucks. We all know it sucks. But this was the moment when I realized Jordan might be ready to take the staring monkey off her back. It was a discovery that took time for me to understand.
When Jordan was a baby, I used to look everywhere to find the people staring and whispering when we’d get out of the house. I wanted to catch those staring violators in the act and teach them a lesson. Or I just let anger build up inside of me. But around the time she was three or four months old, I realized I had a choice to get worked up by the looks and stares or I could choose to live my life with my beautiful family. I had a chance to teach those staring people a lesson by showing them how a limb difference doesn’t stop our family from being a typical family. Jordan is living a typical life with a non-typical arm. If you look at the big picture, there is NOTHING wrong with her, except she doesn’t fit the mold of a typical human shape. I decided that some of those people staring can learn that big picture just by watching us carrying on our lives. If they don’t learn that lesson, then it’s too bad for them.
I realize I need to empower Jordan and probably her friends at the same time to just let the staring go. Don’t seek it out. Don’t hunt down the points and whispers. But if the staring become obscene or obvious, it’s up to her to decide if she wants to call them out. If she’s feeling uncomfortable, I hope we can help her find solutions that she doesn’t find embarrassing.
Our temporary solution? I think we might create a new shirt to wear at dance class that says: “DON’T STARE, JUST ASK.” It will be a weekend project. And the idea brought a smile back to my girl’s face.
While we work on a new t-shirt to deal with staring, could you take a moment to tell your kids why it’s SO much better to ask questions instead of stare? Taking the time to mention its importance can help generations of adults and children who live proudly with a difference. They’re all TIRED of it. All it takes is you. Please, I beg of you. Please bring this topic up in a conversation. You are my only hope.
–Written by Jen Lee Reeves, Founder and Writer of Born Just Right
Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit located in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC. We help make the world a more inclusive place by providing live and online training to people who work with kids. We teach strategies, accommodations and best practices to include kids with and without disabilities in before & after school programs. Inclusive environments create stronger communities. Learn more about our work at www.KITonline.org.