If you’re visiting a friend or child with a handicap that is noticeable but not necessarily something that will bother your kids, do you bring it up?
I blew this a few weeks ago, when we went to see a family member who is being treated for cancer. I thought she’d wear a wig, and that the kids wouldn’t notice, and I didn’t want them to pester her with a lot of questions. Instead, she had a little soft cover on her head, and that provoked immediate curiousity. What was it? Why did she have it? Where was her hair? Oops.
Over the holidays we’ll be visiting at least one friend with a child who is somewhere on the autistic spectrum. My first thought is that there is no reason to mention it. My kids are young enough to be accepting of a pretty high level of weirdnesses and I bet it’s completely irrelevant to them. They will play with other kids in whatever way they want to be played with, or not. One also has a hearing aid, and I’m not going to bring that up unless/until asked. I figure, then it’s all just well within the realm of normal.
But research on other differences, like race, suggests that not talking about it directly teaches kids not that it’s so ordinary that there is no reason to mention it, but that you’re not supposed to mention it. That’s not the goal at all. I just don’t want them to go into things with any preconceived ideas provided by me. I want them to take the kids on their own terms. I’m more than willing to talk about it, but I thought I’d wait and see if they even see a difference worth mentioning. Good idea, or hopelessly idealistic bad call?