Sunday, July 27, 2014


In 2001, I was in Toronto for the Little People of America Conference.  One day, I was wandering the streets of Toronto alone, looking for a hot dog vendor.  A friend from Chicago had told me that Toronto was one of the only places to find hot dog vendors who sold tofu dogs. The streets of downtown Toronto were busy.  Of the many people on the street, I passed a woman on a bicycle.  Her young son sat in a child's seat on the back of the bike.  When the child saw me, he exploded into a burst of activity, pointing at me, grabbing for his mother, throwing out questions.  The woman quickly passed, the boy turning to watch me as his mother peddled away.  A few minutes later, the woman reappeared, pushing the bike up the sidewalk.  She approached me.
"Excuse me?" she asked.  She had an exasperated look on her face.  I stopped and looked at her.    "Would you mind talking to me son for a minute?"

My guess is that the boy didn't stop pestering his mother, asking her questions impatiently and persistently about the small man he had just seen on the street. I don't remember what I said to the boy, but I appreciated that the mother approached me.  It's better to answer the questions then to ignore them, and it's much better to answer the question then to scold a child for asking.  The hope is that, if the questions are answered, especially if the answers come straight from a little person, the child will understand that, besides height and stature, little people are fairly typical.  Next time the child sees a little person on the street, he will treat the person as typical, rather than pestering a parent or treating the little person as some kind of anomaly.  The mother in Toronto probably handled her son's curiosity better than anyone else who has had a question about my stature.

Accessible Platform at Ohio Street Beach in Chicago
That was 2001, 13 years ago.  Since then, no other mother or father has approached me because of their child's curiosity.  Until last Tuesday.  I was at the beach with my wife Katie.  After swim practice with a group called Dare2Tri, I changed, then walked back to the shoreline following a platform that had been built over the sand for wheelchair access.  Walking down the path, I came face to face with a young boy who's eyes bulged when he saw me.  He didn't say anything.  He just stood there, staring.  Later, outside of a beach cafe where Katie and I had just had something to eat, the boy reappeared in front of me. He was with his mother, holding her hand. 

"Could I introduce you to my son?" the mother asked.  "He has some questions."  We all stood there for a few minutes, outside the cafe, talking. 

I can't imagine there is anything easy about parenting. I certainly am not one to give advice about parenting, because I know nothing about it.  But if I were to give advice on the subject of curious children with questions about people who look different, I would say, "Let the children ask questions."  And if at all possible, let the people who look different answer those questions.

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