THOSE Questions

Today we’ve had a potentially ‘difficult’ question from our Biggest Boy.

‘Mum, Cerrie’s got one hand. Where’s her other hand?’

Courtesy of Daily Telegraph

I watched with interest when Cerrie Burnell first appeared on CBeebies and some parents immediately blasted the BBC for seemingly employing a ‘disabled’ woman because of an equal opportunities policy – that she was possibly the best candidate for the job never seemed to enter the debate – and demanded that she be removed as her appearance was scaring toddlers. Having just had Biggest Boy at the time I didn’t have to explain why Cerrie only had one hand and thought perhaps that it was this that was scaring parents, rather than Cerrie scaring their children – how do you answer difficult questions about people who look a bit different?

We’ve already had things like ‘Look, that man’s got a big tummy’ at full volume which, although I’m sure quite hurtful to the man (I’ve had it before and it does sting a bit!), seems funny but ‘Look, that lady’s only got one hand’ or ‘Look, that man’s in a wheelchair’ seem a bit more difficult to deal with.

I’m hoping that I dealt with it correctly in just saying yes, she’s got one hand, she only had one hand from when she was a baby and leaving it at that. If he’s got further questions then I hope I can answer them truthfully. The interesting thing was that there was no fear in the question, only curiosity, so I wonder how many of those complaining parents were actually doing their children a bit of a disservice by not answering their genuine questions?

I have always been quite concerned about what to say when faced with these difficult questions but since I want my children to be curious about the world I can’t shy away from them and I hope I will always be able to provide an answer they can understand. At least it’s only Biggest Boy at the moment – I’ve still got a little while before Littlest Lad learns how to start asking!!

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6 Responses to THOSE Questions

  1. Jay says:

    It’s a tough one isn’t it? When I was on crutches for a year I used to get incessant “What’s the matter with you?” type questions, which I a) found exceedingly tedious since it was several times a day for a year and b) found rather rude.

    Interestingly it was the elderly that were always the rudest. I lost count of the number of times I was called a cripple to my face. Children occasionally asked, which I didn’t really mind.

    I think it’s completely wrong to insist that Cerrie be removed from children’s TV for “scaring” children. It’s only going to be scary for them whilst they don’t know what’s going on, and if the parent explains things simply as you have I’m sure they’ll no longer be scared and simply accept disabilities as another fact of life.

    • Stacey says:

      It’s interesting to hear you say that from the perspective of the one being talked about, rather than having to answer you own child’s question! The whole Cerrie thing was so silly ad I don’t think the kids were scared at all – more the parents!

  2. Kerry says:

    I have worked with autistic children and children with physical issues ever since I started working and have walked down the street with people staring and laughing and talking. But I am still in contact with some of the people I worked with which is great as Baba is around these people. One boy in particular. Who is a 15year old Autistic boy, he is totally non verbal and still plays with the same things Baba plays with at two. Baba has always known W he has seen him loose control with his temper and he understands at two that W doesn’t speak like he does and he will ask I know he will but I am so happy that he is around different people and just accepts it at the moment and think that it is vital for him to grow to be curious and ask questions about this xx

    • Stacey says:

      It’s going to sound wrong how I say it but it’s great that Baba knows people different from him – we don’t know anyone who could be considered disabled so when these questions arise it’s always in relation to someone we’ve seen in a fleeting moment. I would much rather though be a parent who explains than one who drags their child away, all embarrassed!

  3. Cath says:

    I think the BBC should be applauded, and cerrie too, for being brave enough to put up with the crap that some idiot parents come out with. If you can’t teach your kids that some people are different, and teach tolerance, at a pre school age, then shame on you. Kids are naturally curious, not scared of new things.
    Of course, we do get the occasionally potentially disastrous out-loud comments, like ‘why is that lady dressed like a ninja?’ regarding a lady in a burka. but hey, that’s the joys of parenting!
    Good on you for giving the little man a simple & honest explanation.

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