Having Charlie has taught me a lot about myself, and one of the things I’ve discovered is that I have a lot left to learn.
Some of my most important lessons have come from the children around us, and here are just a few of them
Children often stare at Charlie when we’re at kindy or the shops or at the park.
I can’t really blame them – she stands out!
My favourites are the kids who just walk right up and say, “Why is she doing that with her hands?”, or “Why can’t she walk?”
Their parents are usually cowering in embarrassment in the background, but I’m completely comfortable with this now.
The beautiful thing about small children is that they will accept almost any answer with a shrug and a smile.
It doesn’t change a thing as far as they’re concerned – it just satiates their endless (and healthy) curiosity.
I’ve seen children change their game to include Charlie once they’ve asked their questions and got their answers.
It’s a beautiful thing.
My friend’s 3-year-old son showed me this one recently.
His Mum popped round for a coffee with me one morning and Jack and Charlie were in the lounge, sitting on the mat.
We glanced over to see Jack crouching in front of Charlie, face to face, carefully placing her arms around his waist so that he could give her a proper cuddle.
When he realised we were both looking at him, he turned to us with a big smile and said, “Charlie loves me.”
It’s true, she does.
It used to really bother me that she was so passive in showing her affection for us, but I see it in so many small and subtle ways these days.
She also really loves a good cuddle, even if I have to put her into the ‘pose’ myself.
She rests her head on my shoulder and giggles, and that’s a hug in anyone’s language.
Susannah often says to me, “I can’t wait until Charlie can…” (ride her bike with me, read me a story, sing with me, draw me a picture etc).
Dylan’s ten years old and has a more adult understanding, but he does it too.
He says things like, “When Charlie can crawl, I’m going to take her up the big slide.”
There’s just a solid belief that Charlie will get there.
Children don’t care that Charlie doesn’t understand the concept of ‘mine’ and ‘yours’, they still don’t want her to take their ice cream!
They’re still upset if she bites them or pulls their hair, and they’ll look her right in the eye and say, “No Charlie, that’s mine!”, or “Charlie, that wasn’t very nice!
No-one will play with you if you’re mean!”
It’s a great reminder for me that although there are a lot of things we make allowances for around Charlie’s disability, it’s healthy to keep some typical expectations (and let the kids have them) as well.
This is an interesting comparison with the above.
Children have a great sense of ‘fairness’, so although they don’t want Charlie to pinch their sweets when she’s already eaten hers, they will happily serve Charlie before themselves, or share out their allotment between them.
At last year’s kindy Christmas party, Charlie sat at a small picnic table in the playground and had an endless stream of children sitting beside her or just dropping off food and drink.
Nobody asked them to – they just saw that all the delicious food was out of Charlie’s reach, and decided to help.
Dylan saw a lady putting her children back in the car after grocery shopping the other day, and unprompted by me he offered to return her trolley so that she didn’t have to leave them alone in the hot car, even for a minute.
As adults, we don’t like to get involved with other people’s issues, especially if we don’t know them well.
We could all learn a lesson from this.
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