Last week, we were in Oklahoma visiting family, and every night we went out in their backyard to fish in the small neighborhood pond. On the first night of this daily ritual, my son noticed a man walking the track around the pond. He only had one arm, and my son innocently asked him, “Are you hiding your arm under your shirt?”
I can’t make this stuff up.
I’ll admit I’ve raised openly inquisitive children with zero filters and the freedom to speak up and ask questions.
Thankfully, I wasn’t around when this happened or I’m sure I would have come up with some bumbling response to cover my son’s “offensive” question.
To my surprise, the kind and thoughtful man openly explained that he lost his arm in a work accident. He told my son his arm got stuck in a machine, and they had to amputate it after the injury. My son went on to ask if it hurt and if there was a lot of blood. The gentleman explained that it was excruciating, and yes, it was bloody.
My son is five.
My mama’s heart hurt when I heard what he’d said to the man because I assumed it made him uncomfortable. It broke a little more when I found out my son had been exposed to such horrific information.
But here’s the thing—it didn’t bother him one bit. It didn’t bother the man on the track either.
He appreciated the open and honest questions my son asked, and he answered each one graciously and with the kind of patience I wish I had with my kids.
Fast forward a few weeks to our weekly Target run when my 4-year-old daughter gleefully announced that the woman in front of us was the color of yummy chocolate. Honestly, I had no idea what to say. But, she did have gorgeous skin. After hearing my little one’s declaration, she graciously turned around and said, “Yes, I am!” and smiled kindly at my dimple-faced daughter.
That day, we went home and lined up all of my youngest’s dolls in a row. She is doll-obsessed, and her collection is a beautiful rainbow of colors–some natural, some not so natural (she’s a fan of pink). I asked her if she saw any differences. She pointed out that some had messy hair because she forgot to brush it. She added that a few needed a bath. And, she went on to say how many of her dolls were cute. None of the things on her list were what I would call differences. Why?
Because at four, she sees interesting things. She sees the beauty and wonder in it all.
I take the time to talk about skin color, how people are differently-abled, and because we live in a bilingual home, we talk about cultural differences a lot, too. But I’m still uncomfortable when my kids loudly point out a difference if I think it might upset or hurt someone.
But last month, I learned to stop apologizing when my kids don’t have a filter. More often than not, it doesn’t make anyone squirm but me.