Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lessons in Diversity - 4-year old style

I may have mentioned this before but if I did I can't find it.  There is a woman who works at my local Whole Foods who is a little person.   

So the point is that Lilly, now that she is not generally in a shopping cart, has noticed this woman, who is only a few inches taller than she.  The first time she really noticed her, the woman had already walked on, but Lilly was still staring.  She asked me why she was so short and I explained that people come in all shapes and sizes, much as I do when she asks why someone is "so big" when she notices a person who is obese.  We have seen the woman a handful of other times in passing.

This past Sunday I was there and the sales associate was standing at the end of the registers, almost like she was supervising.  Meaning, she was not walking away to another part of the store.  Lilly was walking by her and kelt looking back with open curiosity.  It took me a minute to make the decision, but I turned around with Lilly and asked the woman ( Michaela, it turns out) if my daughter could meet her.  I explained that she, Lilly had never met another adult who was only a little taller than she.  Michaela agreed and let Lilly look at her, asked how she was and introduced herself.  Lilly then introduced herself and they talked for a minute or two.  I thanked Michaela and we walked out of the store.

In my Disabilities Studies class at Montclair State University we discussed these very situations.  At the time Lilly was just about a year old so it was not very real to me.  It was more of a hypothetical situation but I was able to really think about what I would do when the time came.  The one thing I had realized was that telling my child not to stare was not going to be my solution.  Children stare.  It is natural for them; so in telling them not to, you are letting them know something is wrong.  I decided that I wanted my child(ren) to grow up knowing about differences while still respecting them.

Did I feel the littlest bit awkward asking this woman, a stranger to me,  if I could introduce my daughter to her?  Yes, but I wanted Lilly to see for REAL that people come in all shapes and sizes.  This was not hypothetical.  This was real life, in my local grocery store.  We will see this woman again, and I am hoping that next time Lilly will only stare so she can catch her eye and say hi.  After all, when we went out to the car Lilly told Vinnie, "Daddy, I met a new friend.  Her name is Michaela."


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