We just finished up Christian's second week of school and he's doing pretty well. There is an extra day this year so now he is attending four days a week. He is a pretty tired little guy at the end of his week.
As Christian is getting bigger, it's more and more obvious that he isn't like the rest of the kids that go to school. Especially when he is a brand new four year old who looks like he's much older!
Christian gets a lot of stares, which is fine. That doesn't bother me. Kids are unconditionally curious. And more than once we get unfiltered, honest questions from the mouths of babes. The number one question is: What's wrong with him?
My brain always stumbles with this one. How much information do I give? Is this two minute meeting with a small child at school really a moment to teach about the ramifications of brain injury or the importance of pool safety? No. So I don't really know where to start. Good thing small children need only simple answers. Although, sometimes those are the hardest to come up with, I've had some practice in the last two weeks.
I usually start with saying that Christian's brain is different than their brain. I say that it doesn't allow him to walk or talk but he can still understand everything. Then I tell them his name is Christian and he is four years old. Sometimes that's enough of an explanation and sometimes I get, "But, why is it different?" This is a moment where I just wish I could say, "Because he was born like that."
Those kids...they teach you something every day, even if just in passing.
Remember when I complained about kids being cruel and mean at the end of last school year? Well, kids can be pretty awesome, too.
Yesterday, while pushing Christian to the car and leaving for the day, we passed a little boy, no older than six. He was alone and probably walking back to his classroom from lunch. He had a very bright orange vest that indicated he had been given some important assignment to lead his class. When he saw Christian and me coming toward him, he stopped in front of us, approached Christian, and gave us his miniature version of an interrogation.
Orange Jacket: "Hey, what's wrong with him?"
Me: "He just has a different brain than you. But his name is Christian and he's four years old. He goes to school here. What's your name?"
Orange Jacket: "Matthew." (Smiles.) "Why he can't walk?"
Me: "Because his brain doesn't let him."
Orange Jacket, peering at Christian and getting closer to him: "Does his eyeball sometimes go to the side?"
Me: "Yes. Sometimes he likes to look to the side. Say hi Christian."
Let me just interject and say that Christian can be totally in tune with kids in his age group and will reach out to them. So when I was telling him to say hello to the little boy he was reaching out toward him.
Orange Jacket: "Hi, Christian!"
Me: "Look, he's trying to say hi to you. He's trying to grab you."
And then Orange Jacket puffed out his orange jacketed chest and moved it forward so Christian could get him. Boom. Acceptance. He would play along. It was decided.
Me: "You got him, Christian!"
And then Orange Jacket got close to Christian so they were face to face and yelled, "You got me! You got me! YOU GOT ME!"
We said goodbye and Orange Jacket ran off to his classroom.
I never know how to answer impromptu questions that come from adults or kids. But I'm learning and I'm sure I'll get better at it. Funny this happened yesterday because my friend posted a link to an article about how to ask questions and how to answer them about being in a wheelchair. (Jenny, you must've been reading my mind.)
How to Answer: Why are You in a Wheelchair?
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