Oneness, not Sameness
Posted Dec 8, 2015 by Jacquie Robison
Recently, Sofia spent a fantastic afternoon with a bunch of friends. Want to peek at the promise of the next (next) generation? Just observe a group of six-year olds come together as a relatively new set of friends and figure each other out.
Over the course of the afternoon, there were some pretty significant lessons that this cadre of kiddos could teach adults.
There were a few questions about Sofia’s orthotics and she simply said, ‘see how your legs do their job very well? Mine are still learning and I need these braces to help me get stronger.’ Heads nodded and the playing resumed. That was it.
I marveled about my own experiences with strangers. I have always felt that Sofia doesn’t need to be explained away. I don’t retreat from saying ‘cerebral palsy’, but she is not a curiosity to be labelled. For the most part, the adults who ask about her stepping are satisfied when I say ” she’s just working to improve her heel/toe gait”. On occasion, some of them push with “what does she have, exactly?” And, I’ll just say “well, she has work left to do.”
So, at another point in the playdate, the kids designed a relay competition. As they broke into teams, they discussed what the challenges should be. I heard some calling out “running”, “jumping”, and then Sofia’s unmistakable voice offered “singing”. She explained, “I’m still working on doing those other things, but I can sing and it would be fun to have something musical.” I love not only how she advocated for herself, but the way the other friends listened and worked out a plan that would include everyone. A girl from the other team added, “I love singing, too.” Then she pointed at her own chest and to my daughter’s and said, “Same, same Sofia.”
It filled me up.
I know how important it is for me as a parent — as a person — to be aware of teaching not just sameness, but oneness. To think about the instruction that informs how Sofia evaluates and organizes things and people into groups of ‘same’ and ‘different’. To make sure she realizes that she can have things in common with her friends and things that are unique to each of them, and that it is one of the interesting and wonderful truths about the world. To make sure what my child hears and sees doesn’t result in: same is ‘like me and good’ and different is ‘unlike me and bad.’
To have her see mirrors of her experience so she knows she’s not alone, along with windows that will open her horizons, broaden her understanding and grow her acceptance.