My daughter loves her grandpa, all four of them. But this week, we spent a lot of time with papa D. She loves her time with papa D. This week, they went swimming in the lake, he was pushing her on the swings and chasing her around in the grass. She sat by him a lot at meal times and made sure he was in her sight. When he wasn’t, she asked, “Where’s papa?”
On the third day, my 26 month old ran toward papa D and noticed a nub that poked through the sleeve hole of his T-shirt. Now, she had seen him without his shirt before, but for some reason, this moment her curiosity overwhelmed her and it seemed right to ask. She had a caring but concerned expression on her face as she pointed up at his right arm and asked, “Ow? Hurt?” Papa D seemed almost astonished that she would ask now, but you could see the understanding and could hear it, too, when he said, “No, no ow. No hurt.” He was right. It didn’t hurt. Papa D lost his right arm to cancer when he was 29. He had relearned quickly to enjoy pretty much everything he did before age 29 and more. Having one arm has not stopped this amazing man one bit. His response to her question didn’t puzzle my daughter, she just smiled and went back to playing.
Kids and curiosity just go together. It’s important for them to feel comfortable enough to ask these types of questions, and it’s important for parents to have an educated and tasteful answer.
I thought more about it when we came home. She has tons of toys with at least one limb missing, and she knows they are all still fun to play with. She is babysat from time to time by a close friend who is deaf. Maybe a few books could help me explain more of these subjects to her. We’ve taught her to sign a little, and she’s learned a little from public television. We’re doing what we can, but we have to do more so that she’s getting the exposure she needs to understand the world around her.
For tips on talking with your kids about disabilities: http://www.babycenter.com/0_how-to-talk-to-your-child-about-disabilities_3657045.bc
For a list of children’s books on disabilities: http://www.amputee-coalition.org/fact_sheets/help_child_understand.html