I promised I’d do it. And then, so typical of me, I didn’t. But today, as promised, I pulled out Paige’s little box of writing prompts and I am answering the first question I saw: what is your pet peeve?
Oh, this is so easy for me to answer; I’ve been stewing on this for a while now. My pet peeve is insincerity. I’m all for being positive, looking on the bright side, and being kind to everyone. But it really peeves me when truths are overlooked in order to present the “perfect picture.” Case in point—and I know that some might be offended with what I have to say, but I feel I need to say it—an article written for the Church News about Primary-aged children with disabilities.
Let me start from the very beginning. In January of this year I was contacted by my Primary presidency regarding a visit the Primary General Board had paid to our church. You see, there are a number of children with disabilities in our ward/neighborhood, Keelie being one of them, and the Church News wanted to feature an article about how Primaries can better serve these children and their families. All in all, it was a great article. However, in the article, as it is written, it states: “On Keelie’s first day in Primary, her mother was nervous, but with the teachers’ and leaders’ help and the children’s naturally warm acceptance, it proved to be a comfortable experience for everyone.” The issue I have with this article is the underlined statement. I don’t write this to be mean, to incite anger or pity. I write this because, if I am being honest as I feel I should, this was not my actual experience.
As a rule, not all children are naturally warm and accepting. Warmth and acceptance, as well as cold callousness and rejection are taught through experiences in the home and in public. On several occasions I have witnessed children shunning my daughter because of her behavior which may include: licking or smelling herself or others; hitting or biting herself or others; loud, inappropriate vocalizations; hugging, kissing, and showing affection at inappropriate times; or any other behaviors one might find in other children with autism. Children have sneered at her, moved places in order not to sit by her, even teased her during Primary. I understood and tolerated it all to a point.
On one occasion, when she was four-and-a-half years old and still dependent of diapers, one child openly teased her during class, exclaiming loudly, “She still wears diapers! Ewww! Look at her, she still wears diapers!” To my dismay, several of the other children joined in the ridicule, pointing fingers and vocalizing their disgust. When the teacher did nothing to stop the rude behavior of the children, I removed Keelie from the class, too hurt and disappointed to return.
After much thought and prayer, I decided that the entire Primary--teachers, leaders, and children alike--would need some training before I took her back to class. The training has been beneficial and, as the article states, it has evolved into a “comfortable,” positive experience. Of course there are still times when children move away from her or flash a dirty, disapproving look. But there are also better times when children openly come to sit with her, smile at her or offer her a friendly greeting. I love it when that happens.
So, back to the insincerity, my pet peeve. Does it do any good to hide the truth of my story? Did anyone on American Idol ever benefit from Paula Abdul’s patronizing encouragement? It makes for good TV, but I mean, how did all those awful singers end up on national television, the butt of every late-night joke in the first place? I venture to guess that it was not through the sincere appraisal of their talents. I say the truth will teach more than sugar-coated, Pollyanna-type blurring of details in order to shelter people from harsh reality.
Were any valuable lessons taught through the depiction of “the children’s naturally warm acceptance”? On the other hand, does it hurt too much to explain what really happened? We don’t want to read about the bullying that might take place in a church setting. That does not erase the fact that it is there. Let’s get real, be sincere. The real truth is that children need to be exposed to and taught to accept those who are different, those with disabilities.
I’m not saying to blurt the harsh truth about just anything, (e.g., those jeans make your butt look huge. Lose a good fifty pounds and you might look better). I am just asking that we all say what we mean and mean what we say because insincerity hurts more in the long run than gentle and sincere honesty.
There. I said it. I got that off my chest. Thanks for listening.
Now, look at her in that picture. There, in the middle in the lovely silver dress.
Isn’t she gorgeous? Man, I love that girl.