19 January 2012

Engaging with children is nice.

(Photo sourced with permission from Ben Harris- Roxas via Flickr)

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.  :)

(Photo sourced with permission from Good Googs)

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!


  1. I can understand why you've felt uncomfortable before, absolutely - the stares, children love to stare! But what beautiful, interesting, sweet minds children have :) untouched by prejudice. Just full of curiosity. & you're right, reflecting on your day and focusing on the positives is a lovely practice to do.
    Heidi xo

  2. You're right Carly, kids are where you have to educate, as most adults have their views because of THEIR parents! Kids just want honesty, and to be treated well, like anyone I guess. My little Miss was a bit nervous when she met you, but now she asks me about people who look different, wanting a medical explanation or just an honest answer- sometimes "I don't know why" is enough. If she wants to know more she now says "I'll Google it"!! And the 4 year o0ld party would have been awesome!

  3. They really to make you smile, don't they?

    I hope you are able to share your life with more kids and help them all to understand more.

  4. Carly I agree with you so much when you say it's parents who shape their childrens views on the world.
    Thank you for being brave and talking to that little girl.
    My children often ask when they see people in wheel chairs or blind people why they "have that". I try not to shy away, and I don't always know all the answers to the questions that will follow but I do speak to them about it. About how some people are "blind" which means their eyes don't work. Sometimes this happens through an accient, or they are just born that way, and sometimes it happens because they get a certain type of sickness. As a parent I am quite aware that people may hear my children asking or see them watching, and I do tell them not to stare, but to smile and give them a wave because they're people too just like me and you, and we are ALL different.
    Would you be upset to overhear a parent trying to explain to their child about you? Is that something that would upset someone with a disability?

    Children are extremely curious by nature so if you get questions please don't get upset, it is them wanting to understand YOU. That's a pretty big compliment from a child.

    1. Hi Miss Pink, I'm Nikki and have a skin condition (a little different than Carly's) that makes me look very different.
      I would not be upset overhearing u explain to your child because far too often when kids point and stare at me saying "woah look mum!), the mother does nothing and sometime they them a big hug and kiss saying "it's ok darling" as if their child shouldn't have had to see me!
      I though mothers were meant to teach their kids not to stare?

      So Thankyou for being a mother that doesn't just do nothing :)

    2. I agree Nikki. So many parents apologize or comfort their child as though my looks have scarred them rather than just scared them.
      It is good Miss Pink that you are explaining disability and visibly different facial appearances to your children. I would not be upset to hear a parent tell someone that i was born differently etc, but I'm not keen on parents making assumptions about my looks and telling their child that I have 'been stupid and sat out in the sun' - this often gets said. I then correct the parent.
      Again good on you for being a proactive parent!

  5. The idea of engaging with kids is a brilliant one, because I bet you're teaching their parents as well as the kids themselves. And it's so good to know there are kids out there who are being brought up so well.

  6. That little girl sounds lovely, and like she was brought up with great values :) As long as there are wonderful people like yourself around, to help shape the new generation, we'll have nothing to worry about :) Go you!

  7. Carly simply a beautiful moment :) The divine Miss Pink is so right, children just want to know and as parents we are the ones that shape their values. I'm so lucky that working with childrene everyday gives me the opportunity to openly talk to them about everything and anything. Thanks you for the mention too, there must have been something in the air as I wrote that post before your encounter with the cute poppet. XX

  8. I recently had an operation and was in a wheelchair for a while. I noticed that a lot of people stared, but especially children. I also realised pretty quickly that when I smiled at a staring child, they smiled back and sometimes even had a brief expression of relief cross over their face. Whether they were scared for themselves or me initially, I'm not sure, but it's amazing the difference that a smile made.

  9. I love interacting with children, particularly very young children. Their questions usually come from a place of curiousity, not from a place of malice. Plus, they're pretty freakin' adorable. One of the little girls I teach asked me if I needed a bandaid for the scar on my lip the other day, so we sat & had a good conversation about cleft lip & palate. It's amazing what a 2-3 year old can understand!


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