Robin is another good friend of mine whose has brought many a delicious, gourmet, homemade meal to my family in times of crisis. She surprised me by sending this to me yesterday and asking if I would post it here.
Monsters under the bed. Bumps in the night. Ghosts and goblins. Are my children afraid of these? Not anymore. When they were younger, I would assuage them from their nightmares by saying that our dog would chase any scary creatures out of the house. I would then tell them to think about playing racecars with their friends, then hug them and tuck them in tight. So what are they afraid of? The little person at Target. Why, oh why, is that? They can’t explain it to me. They just hide behind me, and occasionally peek out and stare. Her stature can’t be scary since she’s smaller than I. And it’s not like she has tentacles or eight eyes or anything strange like that. The only thing I can reasonably assume is that she is different. I explain to them that there is nothing to be scared of, she’s just like us except smaller. It doesn’t seem to get through because it’s the same every time we go.
How do you make that fear go away? Yes, expose them to people with differences, interact, play together. Show them we are all the same, each with our own unique set of gifts and problems, whether they are visible or hidden deep inside. This approach works in the classroom with the boy in the wheelchair or on vacation with their developmentally delayed cousin.
Unfortunately, I don’t know any little people so I can’t set up a playdate. I’m hoping that over time they will get over their fear as we talk about things and people that are different than we are, so that when they see something or someone different, they are not fearful but accepting. I also let them know that asking questions is okay, since that is how we learn.
What do I want them to be afraid of? The caregiver that gives them a little too much attention. The friend that offers them an easy way to forget their problems. The boyfriend that just can’t live without her. The opponent on the field who will win at any cost.
I know we were supposed to write about how Down Syndrome affects us, but the kids seem to take that in stride. A question or two about the bagger at Ralphs, then we are on to the next thing. Like why we can’t have a quarter for the giant gumball machine or arguing over who can push the shopping cart into the parking lot. I just need to figure out how to make them behave in Target like they do in Ralphs.