Dear Class of 2032 Parents,
You may not know me yet, but you will soon. My daughter Livy will be in your child’s kindergarten class in the fall. Livy is the sweetest and friendliest 5 year old I know. Livy loves soccer, singing, reading, painting, baking, playing outside, swimming, Pinkalicious, Taylor Swift, and the movie Sing. She has a very contagious giggle and is very outgoing. I hope your child gets to know her, and I hope they become friends.
I know that you are probably as nervous as I am about our kids going to Kindergarten. I know you are preparing them the best you can for this big life change. Can you believe they will be in “big kid school”? It’s gone by so fast! I want to help you prepare them even further, not just for Kindergarten, but for life in general. Not everyone in our everyday world is the same. You and I both know that.
This may be the first time your child will meet a child who has a disability. I hope that you take this summer before kindergarten to prepare them. I do not want them to be scared of her leg braces or her walker and wheelchair. They are simply tools that help her to navigate the world like everyone else. I truly hope you take the time to teach your child about differences. After they meet Livy, I hope that you take the time to answer any questions they may have instead of being embarrassed or shushing them. I hope you teach them to know being different is okay.
Differences are so important. Differences are good.
As the characters on Livy’s favorite show Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood sing, “In some ways we are different, but in so many ways, we are the same.” There’s an excellent episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood where we meet Chrissy, a character who has leg braces and arm crutches. I hope you show it your child. Just by introducing them to characters who have disabilities helps. Whether it be with characters in a TV show like Chrissy in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood or in books, it’s important to introduce your child to people that may not look like them.
I think it’s also important to note that I don’t want your child to be friends with mine because “It’s the right thing to do” or because they will be praised for it. Instead, teach them to be respectful of everyone and to be kind. They don’t have to be best friends with Livy or any other kid (and let’s be honest, who they are and aren’t friends with in kindergarten is going to change a hundred times throughout the year). But they do need to be respectful and kind. Let’s be honest, what our world needs is more kindness.
Educating yourself about disabilities and how people with disabilities want to be treated is often the best way to educate your kids. Honestly, the whole bit about treating others the way you want to be treated is a good way to begin.
I hope that you take this letter to heart and spend the next two weeks before kindergarten not only working on Reading and Math, but also helping to teach your child about kindness and differences.
Can’t wait to meet you and your kids soon!
Erin (and Livy)