We've been off of school for a few days because of cold weather but this morning as I was waiting with Olivia before the bell, I was approached by one of the teacher who assistant the the special needs students in her school. Just like the assistant last week, this one wanted to let me know what a kind and thoughtful little girl Olivia is. They are impressed that every day at lunch, Olivia choose to sit by one of the girls in her class who has disabilities because Olivia said nobody should eat lunch alone.
And that made my heart soar and my eyes tear up.
Because even when I think about how hard parenting is, how I don't know what the hell I'm doing, and I'm trying so hard to teach my kids to be good citizens, something will remind me that you know what- I'm clearly doing something right. I always think the true measurement of parenting is not how your kids are at home, but how they are when you aren't anywhere around the and this was a great way to start my day.
And then I was reading some news articles online and I came across this one, where a man refused to serve a customer who made an ignorant remark about a child with Downs Syndrome. It got me really thinking about the stigma of being different and how intolerant everyone still is. I'll be honest and say sometimes it can be scary when I'm in the grocery store and person who has an obvious handicap climbs into my shopping cart. I'm not trained at communicating with people who have limited verbal skills so I won't always know the appropriate thing to do. Maybe leaving the cart there and getting a new one isn't the best option, but it's what I had right then. (That's a true story. This has happened to my mom and my friend as well. Which makes me wonder if it's the same person...)
But to just be an asshole like that to a child? A child who maybe overheard that and now think badly about themselves? It's one thing to be unsure of what to do or how to communicate with a person with limited abilities, but to be degrading, hurtful, and insulting to them? Or crack jokes about them? To make fun of their limitations? It's not OK. Because while we can fix ignorance and stupidity in concern to adults, we can fix the next generation.
The great thing about Olivia's school is that while those students have their own curriculum within a special education setting, they are still integrated into the "regular" classroom throughout the day. They still get interaction with the "normal" kids. Not only is that good for them, but it's a good experience for the "normal" kids as well. Olivia was telling me this evening while I was cooking how cool her one friend is because she brought snack and was super excited about it, and wanted to hand them out to everyone. But she had a hard time with the whole handing out process and everyone chipped into to help. What happens along the way to change a child's actions towards those that are different from them?
I think what broke my heart in that story was that the mother of the little boy said that she has seen people pull their children away from her son because he has Downs Syndrome. Why would a parent do that? Do you think you're child is going to catch it? And what did you just teach your child? That it's OK to be hurtful to someone else based on them being different than you. Way to go, parent of the year.
So yeah. That was my day. It made me think about how it's rare to see someone try to build another person up instead of tearing them down. But at least I know my kids are doing the right thing even if they think I don't know about it. It's a great thing to share with Olivia that others have noticed her good behavior and took the time out of their day to tell me about it and that I was proud of her for being a good friend. She totally beamed and I hope that sense of pride keeps her going down the right path.