Tag Archives: sharks

Shh… Don’t Ask

I'm forever blowing bubbles... left-handed.

I’m forever blowing bubbles… left-handed.

Disability.

It’s a bit of a funny topic when you think about it, and one children are quite happy to broach in that innocent yet blunt way they have. You can be walking down the street when they’ll see someone and that piping voice will ring out at full volume with any question that pops into their heads.

Why does that lady use a stick?

Why does that man use a wheelchair?

Why does that grown up need someone else to look after them like you look after me?

In other words, the sort of questions that tend to go through our minds with varying degrees of complexity.

The trick is how to bring our children up with a positive view of disability, to satisfy their curiosity without making someone who has different abilities be anything less than they are – real people with real talents, likes and dislikes who just happen to have an extra dimension to their lives.

It’s something we’ve been able to experience from both sides. The Other Half is an amputee and one of his pet hates is when parents get embarrassed and try to shut their children up when all the kids want to know is what happened to his arm. He’s quite happy to explain it. He’ll crouch down and ask them what they think happened, then he’ll tell them about a bus accident and how the doctors couldn’t save his arm and had to cut it off.

He’s not ashamed of it.

He’s not embarrassed by it.

And there’s no reason that anyone else should be embarrassed by it.

He does have his own unique way of dealing with parents, or children, who have a negative approach. I remember one occasion when, whilst we were on holiday in Hawaii, two children pointed at him and said “Yuk mister, what happened to your arm?” He looked at them, looked at the water, pointed and said “There’s sharks out there!” We’re not sure if they went swimming after that or not. Five minutes later, two more children asked the same question in a totally different, non-judgemental, way and he explained it in his usual fashion. The parents thanked him for being so open and patient with their children afterwards.

Of course, not everyone with a disability will feel the same way when approached by small, curious children. They might not want any intrusive questions, but, by and large, our experience is that, when children ask the question, it’s for the same reason they ask why the sky is blue, why leaves fall off the trees in the autumn, or why hedgehogs hibernate in the winter; they genuinely want to know.

And people are usually OK with explaining it.

The problem is, with so many views about disability and the fact that society itself isn’t quite at the point where disability is accepted as something natural that can happen to people the same way people can have darker skin or blue eyes, it can be difficult for us as parents to show our children a way through the minefield of learning about people’s differences whilst still respecting them as individuals.

We’re trying to help them understand that someone who has a disability may need to do things in a different way, or might need a little help with certain tasks, but that isn’t too much different from them needing help with zipping their coats up or me needing help with sorting out the flipping heating system. It’s not that we’re trivialising the support some people need, just trying to put it into a context a five-year-old can understand.

In the meantime, we’ll answer his questions or let others answer his questions.

And we’ll try to emulate his open-mindedness when it comes to the world, and the people, around him.

Mummy….?

Questions, questions, questions.

Questions, questions, questions.

This week, in fact this year, has been a time of questions. I never thought one small person who hasn’t even started school yet could have so many questions. And why do they feel like they come all at once?

If you read the Facebook page (note the quick plug there?) then you’ll know that Motormouth starts asking questions, oh, around 6 seconds after he wakes up and finishes somewhere around the time he finally falls asleep.

It’s not too bad when I can see them coming. I can try and prepare for the answer. I’ve become a dab hand at explaining things like the Big Bang, how dinosaurs died out, how tractors work or the life cycle of trees.

It’s the sneaky ones that leave me gaping like a stranded fish.

All I can say is thank the gods for Google (other search engines are available). Motormouth has got used to me saying “I don’t know, I’ll have to look it up”, and we’ve turned it into a shared task; an expedition to the library or search on the internet. It’s even seen me pacing out the length of a blue whale in a certain supermarket’s café, much to the amusement of the other customers.

But the questions I can’t predict?

What’s pineapple in Japanese?

How many meteorites are there in the universe?

How many sea creatures are in the ocean?

How many of them can live in the Arctic?

Why do pigs make bacon?

Why don’t slugs have shells like snails?

Why do sharks have fins?

Why didn’t they put orange paint in his painting set?

What’s that fish on the fish counter in the supermarket?

Why is the sky red in the evening?

Why isn’t my skin black if it’s hot today?

The list goes on.

And on.

And on.

He seems to have developed an insatiable need to learn things, not that I’m knocking that, in fact, I’m trying to nurture it, but I wonder how the playground conversation might go when he starts school.

Did you see Fireman Sam last night?

No. Did you see that National Geographic documentary on giant prehistoric sharks?

I’d love to be a fly on the wall for that one.

In the meantime, I have this secret, if slightly nerdy, dream of us sitting at the dining room table doing our homework together. I won’t mention it to him yet though.

I’ll just carry on trying to field the questions whichever direction they come from.

So, what’s the strangest question you’ve been asked?