When Jill Robbins adopted her son Zack at 2 years old, she didn't think the fact that he was born with a limb difference was a big deal at all. Her suspicions were all but proved correct every time she told her son to "put that down" or "stop climbing that" over the course of the last five years — that is, until Zack approached her with some fears about starting second grade. On her blog's Facebook page, Ripped Janes and Bifocals, Jill penned a thoughtful note to other parents with an important message: "People, please teach your kids not to be jerks. Please."
Although Zack had been mentioning for weeks that he was afraid to start second grade, Jill brushed off his comments for the most part because she says she was "being pulled in a gazillion different directions" and "because my limb difference child is normally confident and gregarious and I really don't think of him as being different." A half an hour before Zack's "meet the teacher night," however, Jill finally focused in on her 7-year-old's mounting fears when he told her he was worried kids might stare at him or ask him questions about his "little hand" — the pet name the family gave his right hand, which isn't fully formed.
"They might," I answered. "That's pretty normal, don't you think? Your little hand is pretty different than what most people are used to seeing. It's okay if they ask questions, right?"
He paused. "Yes. It's okay if they ask questions but I get tired of saying 'this is the way I was born.' Is it okay if I'm tired of answering questions?"
"It's okay that you feel like that," I answered. "But people who don't know you are still going to be curious."
"Please don't let them be mean to me, Mommy."
After this candid exchange, Jill says, is when her "heart [sank] to the pit of [her] stomach" because Zack, who does marital arts, carries his own laundry basket, and helps in the kitchen, shared that his fears stemmed from the fact that he was "taunted" at day camp this Summer. Although she claims that Zack is sensitive and she had trouble deciding from his information whether he was actually taunted or if kids approached him with curiosity, the mom was prompted to open up to other parents of kids with differences and special needs, as well as all other parents (and humans) in general.
"Here's my takeaway: ask questions and be curious about people who look different than you look. But before you stop to ask questions, consider that there is a living, feeling person on the other end," she wrote. "And, if you have a child who is different, in any respect, keep paying attention to what they're experiencing, thinking, and feeling. Their perception of being taunted or ostracized MATTERS. Listen. And please . . . don't let your kids be jerks. Talk to them about differences and inclusion."