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February 27, 2009

Acceptance starts at home

Images Yesterday morning, as I sat down to blearily scan the online headlines with my first cup of coffee, a story caught my eye: "One-armed TV host scares kids, parents." The gist of the story is that the BBC has hired a young woman with an arm that ends in a stump as the co-host of a nightly toddler TV show. Some parents across the pond have written to the BBC, horrified that such a disability is broadcast during a children's show. The article goes on to explain that this is unlikely to happen in the states because mainstreaming has been part of the education system for so long, and isn't the norm in the UK.

Really? Because I can see a bit of an uproar here. While Sesame Street has done wonders with its diverse cast, more kids watch SpongeBob these days instead of Oscar and Big Bird, and the last I checked, the lessons from SpongeBob were more of the "don't get stung by a jellyfish" variety rather than "These are the people in your neighborhood."

My sons, especially my oldest, are curious. Sometimes drop-through-the-floor-with-humiliation inquisitive. And tact is something they are still learning (oh, please, learn it more quickly!). But children learn by asking, and aren't embarrassed to ask the tough questions. "Why is that person in a wheelchair?" "Why does that person have a dog in the restaurant?" "Why does my friend have those things on his ears?" So we've talked about legs and how sometimes they don't work. And we've talked about how you never, ever, pet a dog wearing a vest, because that dog is working and keeping his human safe. And we've talked about how everybody is different, and some differences you can see and others you can't, but that doesn't mean anyone is any better than anyone else, just different. And different is ok.

They aren't easy conversations, by any stretch. But they are short, because they get the answers they are looking for, and then it's "hey, something shiny!" and they're off. It's part of parenting, part of raising the next generation to be compassionate beings. Acceptance begins at home, with the parents. We all have our differences, our challenges. But we also all have our gifts. And if our gifts are to shine, then the differences must be acknowledged and accepted as just part of who we are. We owe our kids that lesson.

This is an original post to Rocky Mountain Moms Blog. Jen also writes at Never a Dull Moment and Hopeful Parents.


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