I love the energy that kids have after school: running, smiling, hugs to parents, stories of the great adventures that took place at recess. They squeeze in every minute of fun with friends before going home.
One afternoon, two little boys from my daughter’s class posed for a photo as they hugged side by side. When my daughter noticed the camera, she wanted to join in. I was about to tell her that the photo was only for the boys, but one of the little boys noticed her and said, “Come on, Nichole!” He waved at her to join in and then put his arm around her too. Soon, a few more kids joined in the photo.
It might seem like a regular happening, just a group of kindergarteners getting their picture taken with their friends … and it was! But it was also more than that. My daughter has Down syndrome, and this everyday happening reminded me that disability is inconsequential to friendship. Some people say that little kids don’t notice differences, which is why they accept everyone. I don’t think that is true. I do believe that little kids do a much better job at accepting everyone, but I also know they notice differences, they just don’t care about those differences the way adults do. They have not been touched by cultural expectations or norms. The beauty in that moment was the fact that she was one of the kids. She was included, invited to join in. She was one of the kids, and nobody cared if her speech is hard to understand or if she is delayed in some other ways. They just knew she was part of the group.
Those kids in that little group of friends were defying a stereotype, all of them. And I was so proud of them!
Ellen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor. Visit her at ellenstumbo.com.