Children are children regardless of socio-economic level, sex, ethnic background, or ability. I love to remind people that baby bears are baby bears regardless of IQ. In spite of all of the labels we try to impose on children, we must never forget that they are children FIRST!
A neighbor said, “I heard your songs are good for children with autism. Do you work with children with autism?” I kept my cool as I responded, “I sing with ALL children. Music is a universal language that helps us love each other.” (I borrowed that “music helps us love each other” from Pete Seeger, but it’s true.)
Where am I going with this? I have a friend with a little granddaughter who has some physical issues and has to wear a brace on her leg. I remind her grandmother to just love her and pretend like there is nothing wrong. In my years as an educator I have seen children with no arms and legs “Tooty Ta” with me. I have had children with no arms write and draw with their toes. I have seen children in wheelchairs picked first to be on a kick ball team. I have had all the boys want to marry my little bald Lauren who had gone through chemotherapy. Why? Because if you don’t tell children they are different they won’t act different. It’s as simple as that!
I’m visiting my grandson’s first grade class tomorrow and I’ve been asked to integrate what I do with friendship and citizenship. I’m going to teach them “Katalina Matalina” and talk about having a heart of gold. I’m going to buy a bag of tickets at the dollar store for each class and ask the teachers to pass the tickets out to the children so they can give “kindness” tickets to their friends. We’re going to sing “We Love Our Flag” and I’m going to teach them the Pledge of Allegiance in sign language because it makes the words so much more meaningful. And I found this poem in an old file:
I pledge to myself on this day
To try to be kind in every way.
To every person big or small
I will help them if they fall.
I will love myself and others, too.
That’s the best that I can do!
And, we’ll do the “Tooty Ta” and the “Banana Dance” and we’ll all smile and love each other! Children are children!