27 Mar 2013

Teaching Tolerance

NOTE: I want to make my mission in raising awareness for people with differences: all kind of differences. I prayed for God’s help in finding my purpose in life and I believe He wants me to be an advocate for people who need help to stand up for themselves: bullied children and children with a difference. I didn’t know how to do it but slowly the answer came to me January 2013. Once a month I want to open my blog for posts that share parents thought on how they embrace their difference, how the teach their children to be tolerance towards everyone with a different… etc..different-is-awesome-small

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A guest post by Marcela De Vivo

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Image courtesy of Michelle Meiklejohn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Mommy?” My three-year old turned to me quizzically. “Why’re they staring?”

My ever-observant daughter had pointed out something I had noticed and endured for years, but had hoped that my children would never be subjected to it. Unfortunately, I knew that at some point they would be forced to acknowledge the unkindness of strangers.

Our eldest, Nathan, has cerebral palsy. When he was born he looked perfect. Big blue eyes framed with dark lashes. The most adorable little mouth. Ten fingers and ten toes and a healthy cry.

We noticed that his development was a little slow right around the year mark. And when the doctor came back with prognosis of cerebral palsy, I knew that we were in for hard times ahead. I Googled everything I could; read every book I could to prepare myself for endless rounds of therapy and tests, and for the physical, mental and emotional struggles of raising a child with a disability.

What I couldn’t prepare or I wasn’t prepared for the staring, intolerance, and uneducated comments. Some people were just genuinely curious, but afraid to ask questions or stare, so they would glance and then look away really quickly, like they were seeing something they weren’t supposed to look at. Others felt like they had a right to pass judgment on me and my child when they had no idea what was going on in our lives, what struggles we had dealt with.

When I had two more children, I knew at some point they would recognize that their older brother was different somehow and that other people would treat him differently and behave differently around him. I was determined, however, that they be more sensitive and accepting than the uneducated masses who treated my eldest like he was somehow contaminated instead of disabled.

I wasn’t worried about how they felt about their big brother; they adore him. But I wanted to make sure that they understood that all people, even the disabled ones, deserved to be treated with respect and kindness. Of course tolerance is a difficult subject to approach when my younger children are only three and two, respectively, but I do what I can. I lead by example and explain why I do the things I do, and answer any questions they have.

“You know your friend Amy? Her little brother James is in a wheelchair like Nathan, but they all got a cupcake at your birthday, right? We don’t exclude people just because they look different or act differently. It’s not good to judge people based on how they look. Because on the inside, we’re all the same.” viewer1Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Luckily for us, we live in a fairly diverse neighbourhood, so the kids are exposed to a variety of people. The more they see diversity, the less they seem to think someone who looks different than they do ARE different and somehow inferior. And because we have a strong group of parents who have children with disabilities who support each other, my younger two have been exposed to a group of people who are kind and loving, but don’t look like the rest of the mainstream.

I can only lead by example and hope that they follow, and understand the lesson I’m trying to teach them. If only other parents would do the same for their children, the world would be a kind, more accepting place and I wouldn’t have to answer Anne’s question as to why the world is staring.

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Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer in the Los Angeles area. She has written everything from health & wellness, marketing, real estate, and technology. She currently works with special needs advocacy firm {www.csnlg.com} which has done great things for both her family and community.

1 comment:

  1. Hello sweety! This is such a amazing post to observe! Utterly like it! Are we following yet? If not then let's follow via GFC, BL, LB and FB too! Let me know, I always follow back! (: New post on my blog! Stop by me soon! xx

    With love ❤.
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