Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I'm Not Used to Talking to Children

When I hear kids talk, I'm kind of blown away.  Obviously, my only experience in parenting has been of a child who doesn't talk at all.  He's noisy. And he's said my name before.  He's even said "I love you"!  But mostly, our home is pretty quiet.  In my reality, almost-three-year-olds don't talk.  So when I hear small children talking, I almost want to stare at them in disbelief, like they're some sort of phenomenon.  I want to point at them and say to the person standing next to me, "Woah, did you just hear that?  That kid just said something! We should alert the media; they're going to want to know about this!"  It's amazing to me.  The more I learn about speech, the more I am amazed that any of us are able to talk.  Truly.  It's a miracle any of us are able to speak.

I've been noticing that other kids are noticing Elijah's differences now.  When he was smaller, they didn't pay as much attention to the drool or how he doesn't always respond when they try to engage him.  But, now, they notice.  I see kids looking at him, wondering.

They're starting to ask questions.

Not too long ago the neighbor kids started to ask me questions about Elijah.

Neighbor girl, "He drools a lot."
Me, "Yes, he does."
Neighbor girl, "Why?"
Before I could answer, she asked another question.  I was relieved; it was an easier question to answer.
Girl: "What's that on his bike?"
Me, "That's something to help Elijah keep his feet on the pedals.  He doesn't really need it anymore because he keeps his feet on all by himself.  He's just learning how to push the pedals by himself, isn't that great?!"

A little later, Elijah tried to get in one of the neighbor's swimming pools, again.
Girl, "Why don't you just let him get in?"
Me: "It's almost lunch and I don't want him to get wet right now."
Girl: "You could just change his clothes you know."
Me: "I know, but right now just isn't the right time to go swimming. And Elijah can't always get his way just because he wants something."
Why, oh why, am I arguing with a six year old?

Soon, Elijah spits up some of his morning snack.

Me: "Whoops!" as I wipe off his face with his shirt since I have nothing else.
Girl: "What's that?"
Me: "He just spit-up a little."
Girl: "What is spit-up?"
Me: "Oh, it's uh, throw-up." (How do you put that nicely, so that they understand?)
Girls: All react disgusted in different ways.
Me: "It's okay, Elijah's tummy just doesn't keep his food down as other kids.  Here, we'll just take some water from the pool to wash it away."
The girls seem satisfied. Thinking that they might associate throwing-up with being sick, I tell them Elijah's not sick or anything.  It's just that sometimes his food just comes back up. No big deal.
Girl: "Oh, you should take him to the hospital."
Sigh.  I am just not used to talking to kids.

I'm glad the kids are asking questions.  Really, I am.  We live in a fantastic neighborhood, with respectful children.  Elijah likes to be with them, so they're going to have questions.  I'd like them to get to know him, be protecting of him as he gets older.  It's just that kids ask "why?" a lot...and sometimes that's a hard question for me to even have the answer.  I don't know why Elijah behaves the way he does at times.  I'm going to have to get used to answering these questions.  I so want to have the right answers, to be able to explain things in a way that they can understand.

I ache for them to accept Elijah as one of their peers.  For the most part, they do.  I just need to wrap my mind around children and their questions.  And I need to be ready with an answer, as hard as the answers may be sometimes.  The way I respond has a big impact.  My answers are what will enable them to accept Elijah and will educate them about kids with disabilities.  It's important that I remain positive in my responses.  Having the right answers does stress me out a little.   I am just not used to talking to children!


Candace said...

Oh Lisa, I feel ya sister! Most of the time, the kids aren't the ones who bother me. They are just curious mostly. If they ask I usually say "Have you ever heard of someone having a stroke? Well Faith had one when she was a baby." and I often will add that she almost died. The reason I do is to impart on them that she was very sick and that they should be compassionate. Most of the time that is enough. But I am usually ok with honest questions..

Mo said...

I understand this completely!

When kids ask about Oia I try hard to make them relate on some level. For example, when a kid asks why she's wearing glasses, I answer by saying 'Oia wears glasses to help her see better, like you see. Do you know of anyone in your family who wears glasses?' Then, they always tell me something like 'oh yeah, my grandma/daddy/whoever does and then suddenly because they can relate, it's not different anymore. Same deal with Oia's drooling. When kids ask why she is drooling, I tell them that's what kids her age may do from time to time and that one time when they were younger, they drooled too.

I also am careful how I answer questions because I feel that ultimately Oia's perception of herself one day will come from hearing my explanations to others and my tone and words needs to be positive, loving, and unconditional.

Stay positive...moments like this are our chance to help change the world and make it a more welcoming place.

Kathy Lausted said...

Lisa, You are such a great writer. I love how you tell the "tale of a questioning child". Often you will hear, "from the mouths of babes" and that is so true. You are helping shape a new generation when you answer questions. What a great Mom you are! Keep up the good work of unflinching patience and love to Elijah. Love, Mom

Grandpa Dennis said...

I had the privilege to spend some time with Elijah one day this week.
Every time I visit I notice improvements from eating to eye contact to mobility. (He is really fast). He is not great with his hands but he has figured out how to carry things. OK, maybe I do wear rose colored glasses, but what I also see is real.

All you folks with special children can become great teachers and many of you do.
I read many of the links that Lisa has on this site and you all make a difference in educating the people around you.

We all need to understand the admonition "to be all that you can be". That certainly applies to all of us, no matter our lot in life.

OK, so I couldn't sleep, but I think my mind is clear.

Gayle said...

I have to share a story related to kids asking questions. They even happen to people with "normal" kids. My daughter (age 21) was visiting the neighbor girls--ages about 6, 8, and 10. Another neighbor's dog came to visit. The six year old girl said, "What's that hanging down by his butt?" My daughter didn't know what to say. Fortunately, one of the other sisters said, "That's how we know he is a boy!" Hang in there. The questions could be worse!

sugar magnolia said...

I TOTALLY understand this...and dd has a typically developing older brother to boot! I get amazed when I see kids her age (she JUST turned 4 this week) talking clearly, running, skipping,'s amazing what they can do. Praying that dd will do it, too!

Ms. Crabass said...

I almost felt this was me writing! I get questions every time we venture out. My son Elijah has an identical twin brother who is disabled as well. Last week we spent the hour at the park with some kids I didn't know, but were sweet. They asked how old the boys were (8)...why doesn't Elijah stand they want a cookie...why don't they want a cookie (they're GT fed) ...and my favorite: Why are they wearing diapers???

I also have two typically developing kids younger than the twins and I often get some intense questions from my 5 year-old. She can unknowingly bring me to tears.

Hugs, mom.

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