Yesterday, my faith in humanity was restored at least a little bit.
I took the kids out to eat for lunch (we had just done the Pesach cleaning the night before as is required by law and I did NOT want to add any chametz to the household). I was trying to juggle the baby, the drinks, the girls, and a tray of food when an elderly woman tapped me on the shoulder and insisted she help. It wasn't until after she carried our food to the table that I realized she had her grandson with her. A few minutes later, I would realize he had a disability. So this woman offered to help us even though hers is obviously not an easy life. I was very impressed and humbled.
While we ate, I noticed the little boy had a disability. He was about 5, but was unable to speak. He repeated the same sound several times and flailed his arms. He also seemed to have impulse control issues (he climbed up on top of tables and walked along the window sills).
I wondered how my girls would treat him if they played together. They all headed towards the play structure together. Girl1, in her usual fashion, introduced herself and asked the boy his name. He didn't answer, but that didn't stop them. They all climbed up and all three slid down together, giggling the entire time. My girls tried to talk to him a few times, but he never answered nor did he seem to respond much to what they said. He did, however, respond with giggles and smiles while they all played together.
On the way home, Girl1 said, "I asked him his name, but he didn't answer." I tried explaining that he couldn't speak because he had a disability. The girls didn't understand and I was put on the spot, but I tried to explain it. I told them, "Some people have a difficult time doing things or there may be some things they can't do at all, but that doesn't mean they can't play with you. You might have to do some things differently, but you can still play together." I gave them Lucy as an example and said, "Lucy has a disability. She can't walk, but she can still play." They pointed out that they know that's true because they've seen Lucy singing and playing on the swings in the Signing Time DVDs. Then Girl2 threw out Lucy's big sister. "Leah has a disability too. She can't hear, but we can play with her too. because we can sign." I told them it was exactly like that. Granted, my kids' knowledge of signs is very limited and they probably couldn't converse much with Leah, but dammnit, they would certainly try. From the time they were about 2 & 1/2, if you asked them why we sign, they would answer, "So we can play with Leah."
I was so thrilled that the kids played together. They didn't see any difference in abilities. My girls didn't even see the disability. The kids only saw each other as friends. They could all giggle. They could all smile. That was the important thing.
To be honest, I was a little leary about even pointing out that the boy was any different from them. If Girl1 hadn't mentioned it, I wouldn't have said anything. I want them to keep that innocence. I want them to be able to enjoy someone's company regardless of what he can or cannot do. But at the same time, I'm so proud that it's very matter-of-fact to them. Sure, some people are different, but it doesn't actually make much of a difference. You can still play with them and that's the only thing that's important.
It may take lying, cheating and stealing to make me doubt humanity, but all it takes is a group of kindergarteners playing together to restore it.
Have I mentioned lately just how much I adore my kids?