By Effie Parks, For the Reporter
This week while at the Train Park, a 9-year-old girl ran up to me and my two children. She loudly said to all of us, “he’s in a wheelchair, that’s sad.”
Of course I did all the things I always do — educating other people’s children, explaining to her that it’s not sad and that he has a happy family that loves him and his wheelchair gives him the freedom to enjoy the world, etc., etc., etc. She reaffirmed her statement and told me it was sad and something bad happened to him.
This is why after 7 years, I almost never go to the playground without headphones. It is constant.
Can you imagine someone constantly saying things like this to your child when you go out and exist in the world? In front of their siblings?
My daughter hears people say that about her big brother. She is the first to point out her brother and introduce him to fast friends she makes everywhere she goes: “That’s my brother, he has a rare disease.” She is proud of him. She doesn’t see sad. But when she hears it from her peers, it’s excruciatingly sad.
I understand they’re children and they’re curious. But this cannot only be the job of parents like me. We need you. We need families to talk about this diversity at home. Include it in the books you read to them at night, encourage friendships with all different types of people. Come up to us if you see your child grilling us at the playground and engage in this opportunity of understanding and friendship.
July is Disability Pride Month. My hope is that this month will be as mainstream as every other pride month I see being celebrated.
It is an important time to honor the history, the diversity and uniqueness of this community and to celebrate the accomplishments in civil rights this community has fought for and continues to fight for every day.
This is such a special community to raise our children in and I believe there is so much more room for these conversations in our schools and at home. Please have them. Thank you.
Effie Parks lives on Mercer Island with her husband and two children. She is founder and host of the Once Upon a Gene podcast, which has a global following. See effieparks.com for more information.