58 In Dwarfism

Dear Mother of the Curious Child at Target

Dear Mother of the Curious Child at Target,

I saw you run into Target  this morning, I was heading in behind you. You looked busy!  I could tell your mind was racing through your list making sure you grabbed everything before you rushed off to the next errand with your cute child in tow. You might not remember me but we both were in the dairy aisle and your child saw me. He was curious and asked you,

“Mom, why is that lady so small?”

You didn’t hear him so he asked louder,

“MOM why is that lady so small?”

You didn’t hear him again so he shouted,

“MOM WHY IS THAT LADY SO SMALL?”

I looked over and you were so mortified. My heart broke, you hushed your son, grabbed the milk and pulled him out of the aisle. You left so quickly I didn’t have the chance to let you know, its okay! I wanted to tell you that I run into this situation all the time, mostly out shopping. Kids are innately curious. They are trying to figure the world around them out and they want to know why things are the way they are. Your child is not the first and I am not embarrassed by your child asking!

This situation has happened more times than I can count and I am always amazed that kids ask the same questions each time.

Why is that lady so small?

Is she a mommy?

Why does that mommy have a big head?

Can that mommy drive?

I know you are busy and don’t always have the time to explain everything to your child right when they ask it. You probably didn’t think this trip to the store was going to involve a teaching moment about explaining differences, you were just hoping to remember everything on your list! I get it! However, if you don’t mind on your drive home or before bed tonight can you explain my difference to your child?

Children need to learn that being different is OK.

They are going to run into so many people in their life that are different from them and through my experience (though I am not a  mother) answering kids questions when they occur and modeling behavior is key. Children look to you as a model to understand difference and how to act in those situations. Differences shouldn’t be ignored but celebrated because we are all a little different from each other in some way or another!

Now I can’t speak for everyone that has dwarfism or is disabled but though my experience when I have had the opportunity to explain difference to kids I have found a few similarities in their curiosity!

  • Kids are not as interested in labels or terms as much as questions about what I can and can’t do. They don’t care as much about the fact I have dwarfism or achondroplasia as much as they care about if I drive, or how I live in a house by myself, or if I am a mommy.
  • It’s important to reinforce the disability or difference that they see is only one characteristic of the person. I have likes, dislikes, and live life just like any other adult.
  • It’s important to explain people with disabilities can do many of the same things, but it might take them longer, and they might do them in a different way or use assistance.
  • In my opinion I love it when parents encourage kids to ask me questions! Not every person may be comfortable having a child ask them questions but I love it! I’ve had many parents come up to me and say, “Excuse me, my child has some questions for you about your disability, do you have time?” I think it is polite and always gives me the opportunity to decline if I don’t have the time!
  • Finally, kids don’t always understand that staring is rude, it’s just a way they work out their curiosity.   Teach them that its okay to ask questions but guide them in how to ask.

Sincerely,

Kate

Now I’d love to hear from you!

How do you explain why people are different to your children?

or

What do you do/say when someone stares at you in public?

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58 Comments

  • Reply
    Angela
    April 4, 2016 at 11:14 pm

    Great post! I also love it when kids ask me questions about my wheelchair. If a child is just staring, I’ll usually smile at them and wave hello. I hope that makes me less scary looking and welcomes them if they want to say hello.

    • Reply
      Kate
      April 4, 2016 at 11:20 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing Angela! Love this!!

      • Reply
        Liz montante
        April 7, 2016 at 12:58 am

        Wonderful post Kate – kids are so curious and so honest at a young age it’s important to find those teachable moments – I have taught my 8 &10 yr olds when they see someone who looks different that is natural to look but not to stare , instead they can smile when the person looks at them . My 6 yr old has Down syndrome and CP so I get the stares on a daily basis.

        • Reply
          Kate
          April 7, 2016 at 10:15 pm

          I think that is an awesome point Liz, telling kids its natural to look but no appropriate to stare because even as adults we find ourselves noticing differences! Awesome tips!

    • Reply
      Tammy
      April 16, 2016 at 2:16 am

      I am actually the daughter of a father who has dwarfism I got picked on a lot as a child about having ” a little Dad” as a little child I didn’t understand to me he was just my Daddy . But as I got older I realize with much explaining from my Dad that they just make fun cause they didn’t understand why he was different I was never ashamed of my Dad I just learned to deal but my brother had a really tough time and would ask our Dad bit to come to school. My children are very used to diversity and I always not only take the time to explain but also let them talk to
      And interact with people with difference .

      • Reply
        Kate
        May 19, 2016 at 9:04 pm

        Thank you Tammy for sharing your experience! It is so good to hear your perceptive as a child of a parent with a
        disability because it is something I wonder about as we start a family!! Thank you!

    • Reply
      Grandma Sue
      May 17, 2016 at 4:20 am

      What a gift…reading your blog!! You are a talented young woman who grew up in a very special family…and you know it!! Keep doing what you’re doing! And by the way, what a beautiful wedding portrait!! Differences make life interesting! Keep smiling! 🙂

      • Reply
        Kate
        May 19, 2016 at 9:05 pm

        Thank you Sue! You are so sweet!

  • Reply
    Brooke
    April 5, 2016 at 12:26 am

    I LOVE this! I have a daughter who was born with a physical difference and we also welcome questions! I love teaching kids that being different is just fine. Thank you for this post! I’ll be sharing!

    • Reply
      Kate
      April 7, 2016 at 10:16 pm

      Thanks for sharing Brooke! It’s great to know parents like you welcome questions too!

  • Reply
    Sarah Withey
    April 5, 2016 at 1:24 am

    This is so good Kate!!! It really is helpful.

    Honestly differences are not just disabilities, many differences are choices too. Trying to discern how to handle and teach about all of these unique characteristics as a parent is intense. I appreciate the charge to model!! If we are loving, no matter what we miss, that message will prevail!

    I so enjoy the dialogue here and the heart behind your blog is so pure!! Keep it up sister!!!

    • Reply
      Kate
      April 7, 2016 at 10:19 pm

      Sarah YOU ARE SO RIGHT! I can’t imagine the struggle in today’s world teaching your children about all of those things! You go momma! Thanks for reading!

  • Reply
    Jenny
    April 5, 2016 at 1:30 am

    Absolutely beautifully written. As a mother with two of those very curious young children, it is uplifting and inspirational to hear your take on the situation. I never want to offend anyone and do my best to explain. I never thought to ask if my child could ask a few questions. Thank you for this! Sharing!

    • Reply
      Kate
      April 7, 2016 at 10:19 pm

      Thanks for sharing this Jenny!!

  • Reply
    Bumbling Mama. Aka. Erin Kennedy
    April 5, 2016 at 2:53 am

    Great great post Kate! My son has done exactly this and I drew a blank at that moment. But then a few minutes later I told him that “Some people are small and some people are tall. Some people have green eyes and some people have long hair. I told him that we are all beautifully and uniquely created and that there is beauty in our differences!” I don’t think it was the perfect t answer but I will for sure speak to him more in depth about this in the future! Your points were perfect. Thank you!

    • Reply
      Kate
      April 7, 2016 at 10:21 pm

      Hey Erin!! Thanks for reading! I totally get that this is something that caught you off guard it catches me off guard when I’m running errands and it happens to me often! Haha! I love the opportunity to talk about it with kids prior or when you have time so you can have more of a point of reference with them!

      Thanks!

  • Reply
    Kristin
    April 5, 2016 at 2:54 am

    My daughter is 3 and noticing differences. I’d like to say to her that everyone is uniquely beautiful. If any ever stares for whatever reason, I always look into their eyes and wave.

    • Reply
      Kate
      April 7, 2016 at 10:22 pm

      A smile speaks volumes! Thanks for sharing Kristin!

  • Reply
    Elizabeth Fowler
    April 5, 2016 at 8:10 am

    I love this post. As the parent of a very busy three year old I’m amazed at how much he notices and is curious about. I also appreciate your suggestion to ask whomever it is that he has noticed ‘my son has some questions do you have time’ instead of talking about someone in front of them which always makes me uncomfortable. If you don’t have time when you’re out – what’s a polite way to quickly to explain? I’ve tried before and failed to be succinct enough and by the time I’ve made my point he’s moved on. Sharing this for all my friends!

    • Reply
      Kate
      April 7, 2016 at 10:28 pm

      Hey Elizabeth! Thanks for your question. I would say if you are trying to explain differences to him quickly for instance if you see someone who has dwarfism compare it to a physical characteristic that they have. For instance, “Some people are small and some people are tall. Just like you have brown hair and I have blonde!” 🙂 Hope that helps!

  • Reply
    Sarah
    April 5, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. You are absolutely right, children are just curious about things they don’t understand, and it’s so important to teach them that differences are good and part of our world. My daughter has a rare form of dwarfism, so this is our world too (she’s small and uses a walker so can stand out at times). I always tell her and our other children that it’s important to be different. If we were all the same, this world would be really boring.

    • Reply
      Kate
      April 7, 2016 at 10:24 pm

      Hey Sarah! Nice to meet you! Yes! It is so important to teach them that differences are good and part of our world! Hope to meet you guys at a conference someday!

  • Reply
    Christine
    April 5, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Last year in St. Louis was our first LPA conference. My son who has metaphyseal chondrodysplasia, Schmid type was just a few days shy of five years old. We also have a nine-year-old AH child whom I spent a lot of time explaining to that there will be a lot of people here and there will be a lot of differences. One thing I asked was for him not to stare but to ask questions if he wanted to. I didn’t even think twice about explaining to my five-year-old that has dwarfism the differences. I don’t know what I was thinking when I assumed since he has dwarfism, he doesn’t need explanations on differences. Boy was I wrong!! He was very curious. He stared. He pointed. He made comments. Our first encounter was when we were in the registration room. And he said (loudly) “she has a big head.” OMG! I was mortified. And then it dawned on me, I should’ve been explaining the same things to him as I was my AH child. I mean why would he know? He’s never been around anyone with dwarfism. So we sat in the hallway and had a heart to heart crash course!! From then on, he was very respectful on asking questions.

    • Reply
      Kate
      April 7, 2016 at 10:26 pm

      Hey Christine! My husband and I loved your story, thank you for sharing! We all need a little explaining sometimes don’t we? Haha! We hope to meet you guys at a conference sometime!

  • Reply
    Michelle
    April 5, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    As a person with dwarfism. I completely agree! I have a rare from called primordial dwarfism. This is exactly why I am going into being a para pro! I love working with kids and let them ask!!! Anything really, even if it sounds rude… they don’t know how to ask in a nice way!

    • Reply
      Kate
      April 7, 2016 at 10:17 pm

      I agree Michelle, some kids don’t know how to ask in a nice way and I’m so glad you still encourage questions because that’s a great opportunity to teach them how to ask the right questions! You will be a para pro! Haha

  • Reply
    Stacie
    April 5, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    I tell my children that everyone is different because if we were all exactly the same, we’d be so BORING. My boys like to compare themselves to each other and it helps to point out that they aren’t supposed to have the same gifts and challenges…

    • Reply
      Kate
      April 7, 2016 at 10:13 pm

      We would be SO boring if we are all the same! What a neat thing for your boys to do! Thanks for sharing!!

  • Reply
    Frank Verpaelst
    April 5, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    Awesome article! I have dwarfism, and was born in 1963. When kids ask me “Why are you so short?” I turn it around, and ask them “Why do you have brown hair?”

    Usually they answer “Because I was born that way?” I answer back “Exactly! I was born short, the same way you were born with brown hair”.

    Usually, that satisfies their curiosity, and they wander off.

    • Reply
      Kate
      April 7, 2016 at 10:12 pm

      Thanks Frank for giving your input! We should all be learning from you since you are a pro at this! That is such a great response!

  • Reply
    Trisha
    April 5, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    What a great post Kate. My son {9. achon} still doesn’t see his difference as a disability {which, I love!}. He has no problem telling other kids his bones grow slow. … and I as Momma bear ;-), am quick to quietly tell a group of staring children, that “he is just like you, only his bones grow slower”.
    Thank you for educating! It takes a village …. and you’re a great contributor to that village 🙂

    • Reply
      Kate
      April 7, 2016 at 10:11 pm

      Trisha! Thank you for your sweet compliment! I love being part of the village 🙂 Hope to meet your son someday at a convention!!

  • Reply
    Meghann
    April 5, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    I absolutely loved this story Kate! When my daughter was 5, we encountered a man in a wheel chair. She pointed at him and asked me “why is that man in a wheel chair”. My response was that it was rude to point but she should ask the man why he was in a wheel chair. His answer more than satisfied her curiosity and she understood that not everyone is built the same.

    • Reply
      Kate
      April 7, 2016 at 10:10 pm

      Hey Meghann! I love hearing stories about parents like you who are encouraging your children to ask questions! You go momma!

  • Reply
    Vinny Boombatz
    April 6, 2016 at 2:47 am

    I have pseudoachondroplasia. I also do not mind answering questions from children because they truly are just curious. This reminds me one time I was waiting in my car outside of a friends house waiting to pick him up and there were a group of young kids playing outside. They went by the car and I could hear them talk amongst themselves wondering why I was so short and if I was a kid, why am I allowed to drive a car (that made me chuckle). My friend came outside and thought I was embarrased but I told him that it’s alright and they’re just curious. I answered their questions in a polite way and made sure to not make them feel like they were doing something wrong. Ever since that day, if they see me outside or walking to the house, they just say “hi” like they would anyone else. People need to not be so uptight and realize that they are just curious seeing something out of the ordinary to them.

    • Reply
      Kate
      April 7, 2016 at 10:09 pm

      Hey Vinny! Nice to meet you! I have had a lot of experiences like that too and you are so right once you answer a childs questions you are just like everyone else in their eyes!

  • Reply
    Emma
    April 6, 2016 at 9:51 pm

    I just experienced this exact situation. I was at Target on Monday (the day you posted this). As I was putting the baby seat in the cart basket and strapping my 3 year old into the cart, my 7 year old was staring of into space. I followed her gaze and saw a man with dwarfism au the check out stand. My daughter didn’t say anything at first, but after he left the store she then asked me, “does that man have OI?” ( I have a friend whose son was recently diagnosed with OI and I’d showed my daughter a video my friend had posted) I then told her that he had dwarfism and that’s as tall as he’d get. She was satisfied and now instead of wondering what was “wrong” she can see that people can be different and normal at the same time.

    • Reply
      Kate
      May 19, 2016 at 9:07 pm

      Emma! Thanks for sharing this story! I love that your daughter thought he had OI and was trying to figure out why he was different! I love that you said “now instead of wondering what was “wrong” she can see that people can be different and normal at the same time” SO TRUE!

  • Reply
    Ashton N
    April 7, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    This post was so inspiring! I recently had a similar conversation with my five year old when she saw a waitress with achondroplasia. She asked if the lady was a child or an adult, and I responded with, “She’s an adult. God makes some people really tall, and others really small. Isn’t she beautiful?” I always try to follow up questions about others’ differences with a statement about their beauty, because I want her to know that our differences are truly beautiful. “Mom, what is that scar on your belly?” “It’s the mark the doctor made when he got you out of my belly–Isn’t it beautiful?”

    • Reply
      Kate
      April 7, 2016 at 10:07 pm

      Thanks Ashton for sharing that! I love that you follow up with teaching your child about the beauty in being different! That is awesome!!

  • Reply
    Dave Dillard
    April 10, 2016 at 2:40 am

    My daughter is ten yrs old and one of her good friends who is also ten has dwarfism. My daughter is uncommonly tall for her age and when they get together to play there is no problems what so ever. There has never been a mention of the height difference, just ten yr olds playing.

    • Reply
      Kate
      May 19, 2016 at 9:07 pm

      Thanks for sharing Dave! That is so great!!

  • Reply
    Carolyn Ingvarson
    April 12, 2016 at 8:32 am

    Such a helpful discussion – for a grandma with no disability in the family but aware of the awkwardness of dealing with my own, as well as my grandkids responses to those we meet when out and about. Thank you

    • Reply
      Kate
      May 19, 2016 at 9:13 pm

      You are such a great grandma! Thank you for reading my article!

  • Reply
    Kally
    April 13, 2016 at 2:50 am

    I love this post.
    I had a conversation with my boyfriend’s young son recently.
    This is what I told him when he asked me “why is that person small?”
    I said… Buddy it is all about genetics, our genes (not the ones from Old Navy) but the ones that make us unique. That person just has the genes to make them small.
    Some genes makes us tall and some genes make us tall. Some make us look like our dads and some like our moms. The way our genes line up makes each person on earth, even you and me, different and special.

    *He smiled and told me he liked that.*
    .

    • Reply
      Kate
      May 19, 2016 at 9:14 pm

      I love that! “Not the ones from Old Navy” Haha that is such a perfect response Kally! You are a great role model!

  • Reply
    Linda Lawton
    April 13, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    Hi Kate,

    “How do you explain why people are different to your children?”

    While my daughter is now 22 years old I remember a day at the mall when she was three years old. There was a man in a wheel chair and i noticed her staring at him. I looked up at him and he smiled back so we went over to talk to him. I told him she was curious and asked if he would mind telling her about his chair. He tried to tell her in a simple way as she was younger. Apparently he had been in an accident as a teenager and had hurt his back and his legs no longer worked so he used the chair to get around. He showed her that he could pop a wheelie with it and i remember her laughing.

    Some people are to worried about being politically correct and forget that they still need to explain some things to their children. I applaud you for being willing to explain it to the child.

    Linda from denmark

    • Reply
      Kate
      May 19, 2016 at 9:15 pm

      Linda I think it is so cool how you remember that story! That is such a great approach as a mother! Your daughter had such a great mom!

  • Reply
    Melissa
    April 16, 2016 at 3:36 am

    I’m not always sure if the person in question would like the attention, so if I don’t make eye contact after one of my children has said something I think is in their earshot, I try to answer their question at the same volume that they asked it.
    We get several stares and questions ourselves, being a large, multiracial family brought together by God’s grace through adoption. And I also enjoy answering questions from children about why we look different from each other. 😉

    • Reply
      Kate
      May 19, 2016 at 9:18 pm

      Melissa! Thank you for sharing your story! Its awesome that everyone no matter the difference gets attention sometimes and no matter if that is a physical disability or a family brought together through adoption we all love questions and respect to answer them! Thank you!!

  • Reply
    Momofahandomeboy
    April 16, 2016 at 7:32 am

    Hi Kate,
    I am so glad I came across this article. I have a son too and if I would have come across a similar situation in a store I too would have hushed my son and fled as fast as I could. You know why? Because i didnt know how to handle a situation like this. Now I do. Thank you for sharing your experience and indirectly education moms like me who want to teach their kids empathy and the fact that even though people may be different from outside but they are all the same from the inside.

    • Reply
      Kate
      May 19, 2016 at 9:16 pm

      You are who I write these articles for! Perfect!!! Thank you so much for reading it! You are the best!

  • Reply
    Jasmine
    April 20, 2016 at 9:28 am

    What a beautiful reading. We have just recently found out that our daughter has a form of dwarfism.
    I want her to be proud of her difference but not limited or defined by it.
    I would have been that mother in Kmart not sure how to approach it. Not sure what to say, not wanting to upset anyone. Now standing on the other side, I want to be a strong example,proud and open about it.
    I really enjoyed reading your article.

    • Reply
      Kate
      May 19, 2016 at 9:11 pm

      Jasmine! Thank you for your honest and dear response! My mom felt the same way before she had me and just the desire to be that example you are already there! Please email me if you have any questions! I would love to be a support to you and your new daughter! katherine@kateandbraun.com

  • Reply
    Marie Scott
    May 7, 2016 at 2:04 am

    I always asked my kids what made a flower garden beautiful. They would all give their answers but all of them agreed that it was the many different colors and different flowers.. Then I explained to them that people were God’s flower garden. We are many colors, sizes and types. All together we are a beautiful garden in God’s eyes. God loves us whether we are the mighty sunflower, the beautiful rose, or the humble butter cup. This worked for me when I was a child in deep thought and it helped my kids too. Thanks Kate for a wonderful post. You have helped many parents by being the beautiful flower that God intended you to be.

    • Reply
      Kate
      May 19, 2016 at 9:09 pm

      Marie thank you for your sweet sweet response! That is a perfect question! I love that!

  • Reply
    Lynn Dalton
    May 10, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    I am a special education advocate and this is a beautiful piece. We all are unique and need to foster understanding of our differences and celebrate them. Thank you for writing this. I will share on my Facebook page On With Learning. And your wedding picture is beautiful- a very handsome couple!

    • Reply
      Kate
      May 19, 2016 at 9:08 pm

      Thank you Lynn! I should be learning from you! Thank you for being an advocate for special education!

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