As parents/adults we would all be wise to keep an open mind and let kids teach us some things that we may not already know. Every day of parenting I learn new things; I become more patient and less judgmental. And, it is all because of my little girl. She teaches me these things.
One of the most interesting lessons I have learned recently from children is their unconditional acceptance of the world around them. Children are not tainted by the sour things in life. However, ADULTS are very much tainted by them!
Little children are generally open-minded and open their hearts freely. Adults are often closed-minded and shield their hearts safely. Children see and experience the world with a loving and accepting nature. They are free-spirited and fearless. They have a goal to learn and understand what they do not know. Adults often close off, shut out and ignore what they fear and what they do not understand.
I will share with you the recent events that led me to this conclusion about kids and adults.
We brought our Daughter, with special needs, to a kid party. She was around the same age as many of the kids, but her abilities are not quite the same. She is hearing impaired, cannot walk yet and is not verbal at this point. But, she enjoys positive environments, exploration, socialization and play. Just like any kid!
At the party, most of the kids were playing together and then eating their meals together. There was an extra seat at the table but the Moms said nothing to us in invitation to join. When we took it upon ourselves to join, the Moms sent the kids to play. So, there we were, alone at the table, with the Moms, feeling awkward.
Next up, it was cake time. The host invited the kids by name to get closer to see the cake. But, no one invited our daughter. We felt very isolated and we were exhausted with trying to push our way into the fun on our own.
The kids basically followed their parents lead. They went where they were told when they were told, unknowingly, leaving Delainie in the dust. We were heartbroken after the party. We felt like we did not belong.
I know it was not the intention of the parents there to make us feel that way. But, it is how we felt. The parents did not consider learning HOW to interact with us and Delainie. They did not consider having their children ask Delainie if she wanted to play or to share a toy. They did not consider embracing our differences, instead, they ignored them.
It is a common thing that we have experienced. It is as though folks do not think of Delainie as a suitable playmate for their children, because she is different in ways they cannot understand. I know that these behaviors are driven by our society. We live in a society that brushes off differences. A society that fears what it does not understand or has not experienced.
Furthermore, I know that the folks who do not understand us are not the only ones who need to be open-minded. We, as a family, recognize that new folks need to be educated, and we are the ones to do it. It’s a tall order, but when we meet folks, we need to help them to understand us. Now, that’s, NEW folks. The folks we know, I mean, know very well, they should truly be educating themselves on our behalf. Because, that’s what friends should do.
On the bright side, there have been a few encounters just lately, where I was reassured at what amazing hearts children posses. I began to recognize that the parents/adults are what hold children back from their true nature of being free-spirited and open-minded. The parents instructions, models and behaviors are the ways that kids learn how to behave and act themselves. I have a few examples to share this point.
We were shopping at a consignment sale. I don’t know if you have ever been to one of those Mommy consignment sales! But, they are crowded!! Moms have kids in tow and are intent on the racks of great buys. As I perused the racks myself with Delainie in her stroller, I saw children leaving their mothers sides to say, “hello” to Delainie. They were asking about her toys, they were attempting to play with them too, they were waving, “hi” and “bye”. They smiled. Delainie smiled.
It’s amazing the level of influence adults have on the interactions of kids. The Moms were busy milling through the great buys, not terribly concerned that their kids were talking to other kids. The Moms gave the kids no instruction except to stay close. Left to their own devices, I saw how children explore freely and openly with unbiased curiosity. It is wonderful!!
Thankfully, I have two fantastic stories to share! We recently were invited to a play group. I was nervous, because our experience in groups with “traditional” kids and families have not been warm. But, the friend who invited us is lovely and understanding. She is a NEW friend I am thankful to have met. So, we forged ahead to the play date.
I will admit there was some trepidation, it led me to consider driving back home instead of pulling in the driveway at the play date! I shook it off and I am glad I did. Because, what happened in that hour was nothing short of amazing for us.
The other parents I met were kind and friendly and we did not sense any fear or feel isolated by their behaviors. That sounds strange, “sense” fear; but, it’s something that we have truly been able to “feel” when around folks who don’t know how to act around us.
While we were at the play group, one little, 18 month old, sweetie came right over and hugged Delainie. I cannot explain to you the level of happiness that filled my heart seeing that. Another little girl came to share a toy with Delainie. This was all while they played together in the same room, without much instruction from their Moms.
When their Moms did give instruction, it was asking their children to share with each other or asking them to see if Delainie was finished with a toy before taking it. They positively reinforced the involvement their children were having with mine.
I left that play date on cloud nine. I cannot exactly put into words what I felt when I left. The best I can do is to say that my heart was light and bright, it soared. It was a turning point in our interactions with the world outside. It was a place, besides the hospital, where we felt accepted and comfortable in our own skin.
Clearly, the parents at the play group have adopted the type of unconditional acceptance that children are born with. More adults and parents should truly give it a shot. The world around us is full of new things to learn and positive experiences. They are missed when one closes off what one does not understand or fears.
Try opening up to something you don’t understand. Take the lead of a small child. Delight in the newness of something you have never experienced. Enjoy learning something different. Appreciate what you have not before. Accept things that you may not understand and work towards understanding.
You have everything to gain and nothing to lose if you try it. Not to mention the impact you can have on others by understanding and accepting them for who they are.