Spending the day with so many school age children I am reminded of many things that I had forgotten along the way as I became an adult. I had forgotten what it is like to be innocent and curious.
The kids on Friday said something that at first I found very insensitive and upsetting, but after thinking a moment I realized they only said this because they didn't understand, and they were naturally curious. On the bus ride on the way back to school from the corn maze we had two different centres from different schools on the bus (to save money because the bus was about $500 a trip), the bus stopped to drop off the kids from the first school. There were 3 boys on the seat behind me (from my centre) they were about 7 and 8 years old. They watched as a boy about their age with a shiny bald head got off the bus and walked into his school with the other kids. They snickered and laughed and asked each other "look at that kid! why is that kid bald?" I waited a moment as I listened to them and formulated my response. I turned around in my seat and I interrupted them. They all stopped to listen as I said "Sometimes people get very sick and have to take a medication that makes all their hair fall out." their response was a serious "Oh" and they quieted for a few moments, which was then followed with a subject change.
I think I gave the best response I could for their age, and I'm sure that if they are still curious they can ask a parent or me for more information. I just said what needed to be said, enough for them to understand that it was not a choice the little boy made, and that it's something serious. What I hope they learned from it is that it's not very nice to laugh about that. My intentions were to give the children the simplest version of information they need to interact with a child who has cancer. I would hope that any interaction they have in the future with a child whose hair has fallen out from chemo would not involve laughter because the child is bald. I would hope they would be respectful with their questions and treat the child like any other they might play with.
Another thing I have noticed at my daycare is lots of children like to pretend they are blind. I know this is them exploring their world and learned and assimilating things, but I am very tempted at times to step in and intervene. Mostly I like to take the opportunity to teach them something about blind people. When I see them closing their eyes and shouting to their friends "I'm blind, look at me I'm blind" as they amble around bumping into things I often will take the time to tell them a bit about real blind people. Most importantly I try to normalize it and show them that being blind does not make a person that much different from the rest of us. They can get around on their own, they can read and write, they can do almost anything we can do, even if they have to do it in a different way sometimes.
The CNIB sends Skyler books, I swear we get 2-4 new books a week from them and they are piling up. I can't send them back fast enough, but I do love it because we are exposed to all sorts of new stories we wouldn't have read otherwise. And it means not having to travel to the library, but most importantly it means exposure to Braille. Which I wouldn't be able to find at our local library anyway. They recently sent us a book called Keep Your Ear on the Ball and I must be hormonal or something, but I cried while reading it. It's the first book they've sent that was written specifically about a blind kid. The others have all been just normal books any kid would have, that someone has added Braille pages to. This one was about a new kid at school who is blind. The other kids are so helpful, they want to open his straw, and bring him his lunch and help him walk, but everytime they ask he says "Thanks, but no thanks." and little by little they realize he can do just about everything on his own. Except play kickball. Anyway they find a way for him to play kickball at the end, and he finds a way to accept their help when he needs it. (They give him a whistle so he can signal them to stop talking so he can hear the ball).
I found it to be a very touching book. I really want to read it to my kids at the daycare later, and maybe get a copy for home. I think it might help other kids understand more about Skyler when he does start going to school.