Wise beyond her years

I went to the hairdresser, and this little girl was playing when I walk in. She stops and comes right to me, and says I’ve never seen anything like that before. She was so cute and sweet about it. Like she wanted to really know what it was. “It’s like…” she started to say, and I remember her words just trailing off in wonder. She asked me if it was real. I said yeah, my skin is like freckles.

She reached out to touch my neck. She couldn’t have been more than 5 or 7 years old, but she had a certain maturity about her. Her response to my difference was curiosity and caution, not fear. Infants often have a similar response to me…they trace the color contrast of my skin.

So where does the fear reaction come from? Growing up does peel away at our innocence. Instead of exploring differences, we teach the behavior to respond with fear when we encounter something that is different from ourselves. Sigh.

2 thoughts on “Wise beyond her years

  1. Not sure about the fear response but I know it’s a shock response. When people see something “unexpected” they freeze in thought. How do we prepare people to be able to navigate new situations with the right amount of sensitivity and candor?

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  2. I believe it’s all teachable, and influenced by exposure and training. A 1-year old falls. Most times they won’t cry unless our reaction startles them to tears. If we treat it as a casual incident, calmly check the potential boo boo and keep it moving, they learn not to overreact unless an undisputed pain occurs. My nieces and nephews aren’t triggered by vitiligo because they have been exposed to it in a non-alarming environment. But when a child looks or asks about my skin, most parents have a knee-jerk reaction of embarrassment or annoyance…that unknowingly conditions their child to associate those responses to seeing something that’s different. I’ve had some parents nudge their children to go and ask me about it, or they ask me if I can speak to their child. With pure intentions behind it, how could I not welcome their youthful inquiry? Hope my nuggets shed some useful light.

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