Today I happened to walk past my girls in their room playing Barbies. They were pretending there was a little girl on the playground who had a wheelchair and couldn’t participate, so to help, all the Barbies were building a playground full of accessible ramps, slides, and swings.
They wanted everyone to have a place.
My girls do things like this fairly often because for the last year and a half they’ve been in the waiting area of a therapy center up to three hours every week with their baby sister who was diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome at 2-weeks-old. They see kids with walkers, wheelchairs, trachs, and stutters.
They’ve seen kids who are different and the siblings who love them unconditionally.
They play with them and get to know them. They also know their own baby sister is a kid who is different, and their love for her makes them kinder to everyone.
Their sister is a gift to them in so many ways, but increasing their awareness is possibly the greatest gift of all. They no longer have the luxury of living in a perfect, bubble-wrapped world, and I for one know they are better for it.
Let me tell you, we’ve had some horrible, cringe-inducing moments where my heart broke as I watched my child feel afraid of another child because they were afraid and unsure. But they are learning, and they are learning because we don’t shy away from these tough conversations.
In our case, we can’t. Different is our new normal, and will always be our normal from here on out.
We talk about differences, similarities, and how important it is to work to find someone’s strengths. We frame this in the light of the Gospel.
We hammer home the fact that God’s table has a place for every single person and that we should all strive to be “table people” and make sure everyone has a place.
We won’t always get it right. My girls won’t always get it right, but they are aware.
All around you right now are mamas who are terrified to send their kids to school this year. Their hearts break every time their amazing kids come home with no stories of lunchtime conversations or playground games.
Would you please take the time to talk to your kids about being inclusive?
Teach them to scan for someone who is alone. Teach them to get to know the things people are good at. Teach them to be uncomfortable, but to push through those feelings to meet someone new.
Invite everyone to the party. I know you want to think your kids would do that on their own, but the fact is most of us don’t until it hits close to home.
Kindness isn’t the same as being inclusive.
Being inclusive is so much more. Honestly, I was selfish and unaware until this precious baby of mine opened my eyes to a beautiful, but tough and isolating world.
Our kids will never learn this without us taking the time to teach it to them. It is too easy to look away, too easy to assume someone else will be their friend.
So, buy the cute backpack and the shiny new shoes, but please fill their hearts and minds with the awareness of the people around them.
There is a mama out there desperately praying you will.
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