So that one time, when it took me a whole year to respond to a question…
A good friend asked me this question last October. When she asked, I was really excited to give a profound, eloquent answer. An answer that would open peoples’ minds. An answer that would make lives better for kids with special needs.
Problem was, I didn’t have one. Because it’s a really tough question.
“What do you want me to tell my child about yours?”
Oy. How do you explain to children that everyone is different, and some are even more different? How do you illustrate empathy? How do you teach that just because something is unfamiliar to you, it doesn’t mean it’s scary or something to make fun of – a concept some adults have trouble accepting?
After a lot of thought, I’ve boiled it down to something I think kids can understand. It’s a subject everyone likes, and as it’s December 7th, it’s timely:
Cookies, and the recipes used to make these wonderful treats.
There are recipes for all different kinds of cookies. Sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, some with M&Ms, some that taste like gingerbread. Cookies with hershey’s kisses, cookies with sprinkles, and even cookies that have frosting. Raisin cookies, giant cookies, cookies in sandwich form. Heck, some cookies even look like a brownie! There are more cookies and cookie recipes than you could possibly list – but at the end of the meal, when you get right down to it, they are all still cookies.
People are kind of like cookies. We are all different, and we are all made from a recipe that tells us what we will be – except instead of “chocolate with coconut,” our recipe calls for brown hair and blue eyes. Or maybe an ingredient that is a little more extreme – like not growing as tall as everyone else. Or not being able to learn as fast, or being able to talk the way everyone else does. It all goes back to the recipe. We don’t know why some recipes have ingredients that aren’t the same as others, but that’s okay – while I love me some oatmeal raisin, what a boring world it would be if that was the only cookie there was.
Now here is the part I can’t equate to cookies…teaching children to accept those who are different. Some children are more nurturing than others – I’ve seen it. They are perhaps more willing to be patient, or even enjoy being the special helper. And some kids are just busy being kids, and that’s fine too. But what I hope everyone teaches their children, is that everyone wants to be included, and everyone wants to be accepted.
That is a subject for another day. Hmmm, I’m thinking…maybe something about pies.