Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What Children See

Ok so you should whizz over this post if you are bored of my playgroup stories because here comes another one.

Tinker and I braved the soggy weather this morning and went along for another morning of teal paint splatters on my violet Gucci hobo bag *ahem* I mean another morning of fun and creativity...

Things were going quite well, I had my takeaway latte and my little bunny had her biscuit. Things were good on the baby trampoline. Sun was starting to peek through and I was not feeling as fat as I had when a mirror was in sight.

I noticed a little boy playing with a big and a small ball. He was about 5 years old and he was sitting over near the playroom where most of the older kids play. I noticed none of the others were playing with him and I saw that he kept bouncing the ball toward them and his mum would fetch it and bounce it back. He was making some big sounds but they weren't proper words. I saw that he had Down Syndrome.

My heart sunk and I felt tears in my eyes, the ones I still get everytime I see a Huggies ad or read anything involving children and babies. The day I became pregnant something in me clicked and I became a massive softie who cries at least once a day over anything to do with little ones. Tinker had seen the balls and made a beeline for the little fellow. I was so pleased. She was so cute playing with him and he was so happy to have a ball bouncing partner even if she did occasionally steal it when he hadn't finished bouncing it. After a while she tired of the game as all toddlers do, she only has a short attention span so we went over to the baby cars for a while.

I feel really guilty that I didn't chat with his mummy, but the truth is I was doing that blinking thing. You know the thing where you blink really hard and really slowly when you don't want to cry in public? I felt so sad for her that I couldn't even bear to make eye contact with her at all. I was so angry with the other older kids there. I felt like pushing them over or at least smearing them with a bit of the paint Tinker splashed on my bag.

I didn't think children that young were able to see difference like that. I didn't think kindergarten kids could be so discriminatory? I was horrified and I am still feeling those tears as I type this post. That lovely little boy, his mother's heart must break every day she encounters people treating her little fellow differently. Gosh I feel sad when kids point to my stunning Tinker with her hair like spun rose-gold and say "look that baby has ORANGE hair ha ha!!"

Today really crushed me, I think it says so much about how important it is to be good teachers for our kids. My parents always taught me to be kind to everyone no matter how different they were to me. I grew up playing with wonderful Austistic children because of my dad's job. I never understood why other kids would make fun of children with disabilities.

What are your thoughts on this, was I wrong to feel cross with those children, should their parents have encouraged them to play with the little boy, could it have been a coincidence, what do children see when they see kids who are different?

Oh and on a completely shallow meaningless housekeeping note, how do I get the paint off the canvas on my bag?


  1. children notice difference a lot earlier though it is how we [as parents, caregivers, teachers etc] model our behaviour around people that have a disability or difference will change how the children act and react.

    on my blog http://everyonewantsthis.blogspot.com/ i posted my personal philosophy on children/families/etc and i believe that we as early childhood professionals need to be promoting awareness that yes there is a difference though they have so many similarities like you and me - i.e. the little boy you noticed has a fascination with balls like your tinker =]

    as for the paint - im assuming the paint they were using is washable as most paints children play with are - unless its edicol which you have no hope. =]

  2. Oh it makes me sad too. It's amazing how young children are when they begin to notice differences in others. Mia went through a stage last year at daycare after getting her hearing aids where noone wanted to play with her. She would cry of a morning (she only goes Mondays) that she didn't want to go because she had no friends. So I'd let her stay home of course.

    Her therapist in Brisbane has gone beyond for her, and worked with the carers, implementing techniques for Mia to get the best hearing results in the noisy environment. Mia took a book in she has about a little elephant who struggles at school, and he doesn't know why he's different. Then Olivers teacher suggests he goes for a hearing test. He does, and needs hearing aids. Everything changes for him after that. It's a lovely little story, and Mia loved sharing it with her friends. I think it helped them to understand her differences, and now they know what her hearing aids are for. Children (and adults!) will always stare at them at the shopping Centres, I don't mind when children do because I know it's of a curious nature. Mia loves them though, she has helped us to embrace them. She wears her hair up everyday now to show them off to the world! x

  3. Yep Carly I agree with you, of course children notice difference but I was surprised that they "see" it in that way. In such a bad way...

    Oh I thought of little Mia when I was writing this post Amanda I remember when she first got her little pink hearing aids. She is such a sweetheart with her Oliver book. x

  4. I can't comment on the children aspect of noticing difference between themselves and others, but I wanted to give you a pat on the back for encouraging Tinker to play with the little boy.

    My nephew has DS, and it used to break my heart to see him be excluded from games at kinder and such like. And even though you didnt go and speak to his mum, I am sur she was very thankful for you doing what you and Miss T did.


  5. My cousin (who is now 27) has Downs Syndrome, and I have always hated how people stare at him like he is from another planet. Children of all ages (and adults too) just gawk, and I just want to yell at them to stop it, there is nothing wrong with him. To me (an my whole family) he is a legend. In a family of swimmers he is the only one of the younger generation to win medals (competing in the special olympics and winning gold) and made it all the way through to year 12 in a mainstream school (it just took a little longer). He has been discluded and bullied by a lot of people, but he also has some true friends that don't have downs syndrome, and I wish more people would be open to getting to know people like him rather than looking at them like freaks. Because they're not. Now that he is older he knows he is different and it kills me to thinkabout what is going through his head when he sees people looking at him like that.

    Golly, that was a bit of a rant. Anyway, in relation to your post it makes me very sad to see children not being included for whatever reason, because of disability or any other reason. I have to say that my kids are only little now, but I just hope that when they get to school they will be kind and generous hearted individuals.

  6. Good on you for encouraging Tinker to play with the little boy. Maybe next time you will strike up a conversation with his Mum. I imagine it would be harder for her to see him "rejected" than it is for him at this stage of his young life.

    A very good friend of mine is one of four children and the eldest has DS. He is the most delighful young man and has brought so much joy to his family. My in-laws are also full time carers for my father-in-law's brother who is in his 40s/50s and has DS. I love hearing how "Timmy" is and what he has been up to.

    I recently commented to my MIL how wonderful it will be to meet Tim in heaven one day - as he will be the whole, healthy man that God created him to be. My MIL cried! I know that when that day comes he will speak to my in-laws and thank them for the unconditional love they have showed him.

    I also believe that the boy you saw today will thank you one day Caroline, and Tinker! You sewed some good seed and you will be rewarded (not that you did it for that reason). God collects all your beautiful tears too sweet girl.

  7. A really interesting post.

    Maybe the other kids didn't notice he had DS? And I guess if they did and they were avoiding the boy, maybe this was because of their fear of the unknown. In those sorts of situations, maybe it's the role of parents to step in an encourage their kids to play with the little boy.

    I guess it highlights how important it is to encourage your kids to be inclusive. And to do so without pity, but rather fairness. I imagine if I were that mum, pity is the last feeling I'd want others to have about me.

  8. I'll answer your shallow meaningless note first - I wouldn't really sweat it - it just looks like a little petal has fallen off one of the flowers to me :)

    Kids will grow up with their parents and societies prejudices - unless they are brought up in stable, loving homes where every being is treated with love and respect irrespective of it's appearance or origin and where individuality is to be applauded.
    (Can you tell I have no kids?? - just the way I was brought up)

  9. As usual, you were completely in the right. People of any age should not be discriminated against because of disability. I see this far too often in my high school.

  10. What I think about this whole incident, is that you have a really gorgeous heart.



  11. Oh I am a massive softie too. I got all teary reading this. Some kids a while back pointed at Max and said 'he has big ears' I really wanted to slap them. Hard. Next week you should chat to his mum, am sure she'd love to talk to a fellow Mumma whose bub also loves balls!

    I have no idea on the stain. I need something to get Banana smoothie off my car seat. From a week ago. Ooops.