Sometimes I think the American public are some of the most ignorant and intolerant people on the planet. Okay, most of the time I think that. There are lots of reasons for this opinion – race relations, gay rights, the religious right… but I won’t get into all of them here. I want to focus on one specific genre of ignorance – that of parenthood.
As a parent, I see a lot of other parents do things I disagree with. Children drinking soda out of baby bottles. Children with pacifiers in their mouths when they are almost ready to enter kindergarten. Children out in public wearing just a diaper and a dirty t-shirt. Children not buckled into car seats in vehicles… the list is too long.
But I’m just disgusted by an article I found today about a couple of shows in England that are produced for children under the age of six. One of the hosts is a lovely girl who has performed extensively in stage productions, and is a successful actress and entertainer. Oh yeah, and she also has a deformity in her right arm. She was born with it undeveloped below the elbow. But the article is not about her deformity, that’s not what disgusts me. Would you believe that the show has received “at least 25 official complaints” about her and her arm? And the CBeebies Television Network reports dozens more negative comments in chat rooms and blogs as well.
One of the complaints that is highlighted in the article is from a father that said that because of this show, he has been “forced to have conversations with his child about disabilities.” Really? Forced? And that is bad… um… how, exactly?? Does that guy make sure he never takes his child to the supermarket or the mall in case they might – god forbid! – see someone in a wheelchair, or a child who has Down’s Syndrome?
Most of the comments on the article itself were along the lines of “this is unbelievable!” and “those people are idiots.” But there was one comment from a women who said that THOSE commenters must not have kids. Here’s part of her comment:
“It’s very hard, as a parent, to have every social issue jammed down the throat of your kids before they even hit first grade. Kids need a certain level of emotion maturity and understanding to be able to MAKE SENSE of the things they see. Otherwise they can’t categorize it properly in their minds.”
Now, as most of you know, I do have children. Two teenagers and a four-year old. When my four-year-old asks why someone is in a wheelchair, I tell him because that person’s legs don’t work as well as his own do. Done. He doesn’t have an emotional breakdown or anything. In my opinion it is the mistake of some parents to pretend that kids can’t comprehend certain things, and try to shelter them from stuff that they, as parents, are uncomfortable about.
There is nothing wrong with being different. If children are exposed to the wonderful diversity of life and the people we encounter in it when they are young – by being “forced” to see it even – they will (hopefully) learn that not only is perfection of ability or appearance not attainable by everyone, it’s not necessary to be happy or successful.
What does that woman do when she sees a differently abled person while out shopping for Ho-Ho’s at Wal-Mart? Cover the kids’ eyes and drag them into the video games aisle until the emotionally-disturbing moment has passed?? Her ignorance, and that of the complainers referenced in the article, will just be passed on to her children and create another generation of people who think everyone who is different is wrong. How sad.