Monday, October 17, 2011

Teaching our kids about dwarfism

The other day, a friend visited with her three month old baby. A gorgeous boy with these long arms and legs  I've forgotten how to hold a baby without dwarfism, all those long limbs sticking out at awkward angles. And to me, they look so "different" - it's funny how now, a baby with dwarfism is "normal" to me and a baby without dwarfism is the "different" one. 

I never knew, until the other day, that the same is true for Lana. 

"Mummy, why does baby S have BIG arms??? Maddy has little arms and baby S has BIG arms"

I honestly didn't know what to say at first - I was dumbfounded that she actually noticed and asked. I was amused that she too thought that baby S was "different" for having "big arms". 

I didn't expect to be answering these kinds of questions so soon... 

Later, after I had a while to think about it, I decided that I should be upfront about these questions and use this opportunity to start to teach Lana about dwarfism. Not too much - just a little bite-sized nearly-three-year-old answer...

"Lana, you know how baby S has big arms and Maddy has small arms? It is because Maddy has dwarfism. That means that her bones grow very slowly compared to you, baby S and most other people. Maddy's arms and legs are very small, and Maddy will always be much smaller than you."

I know maybe there's a better way of answering those questions, and probably a lot of it didn't really sink in yet. I know that there will be many, many questions over the next few years (and decades, even) and my approach will be the same - be upfront and honest with them, giving them the appropriate amount of information to answer their questions without overwhelming them.

And that's how I'm trying to teach my kids about dwarfism.


  1. Nicole - Lana is bright - super-bright (not that you need me to tell you that). She'll have it figured out in no time at all!

    And I think your method is lovely - answer questions as they come up honestly and openly - then Lana is 'choosing' her own readiness and helping you pitch everything at her level.

    I always remember my Mum telling me about when I was Lana's age and she was pregnant with my little brother. I was fascinated by the whole being-pregnant and childbirth concept but completely disinterested in how Stafford got in there in the first place ---- so that conversation waited until I did ask.

  2. you did great, that was the perfect way of answering. It all starts with the parents instilling in their kids the beauty of differences. whether it's race, religion, appearance, strengths/weaknesses... Ecc 3:11-He has made every thing beautiful in its time: also he has put eternity in men's hearts, so that no man can find out the work that God does from the beginning to the end. :)

  3. thank you,

    i was watching a television program with my seven year old and he asked why that grown up was so short. My standard answer is usually"because thats how he was born" that answer isnt passing anymore so i did a search because I know nothing about this range of conditions and want my son to have the correct information :) thank you