I saw a girl on the crosstown bus today. She couldn't have been more than five or six. She sat beside her mother but wore a patch over her left eye. It looked a bit like a pirate's patch, rakish and exciting, except it was emblazoned with the Superman insignia over a 'P.'
I looked at her. She and her mother were engaged in a counting game. Obviously her mother wanted to ensure her daughter worked her eye appropriately, so she was having the girl count each person who entered the bus. The reward for this endeavor was that the girl would get to play a game on her mom's iPhone.
I watched the little girl for a while. I couldn't resist speaking to her.
"Hi," I said. "My name is Olivia. My sister's name is Sophia. My little sister had to wear an eye patch just like yours. But hers wasn't as cool as yours. Yours is so cool! It's like you have superpowers or are supergirl!"
The girl smiled at me. She took this all in stride.
"Yeah, my sister had to wear one, too," her mother answered. "She just had a clear patch. They make much cooler ones these days." I nodded and smiled at her.
"I just wanted to tell you that yours is so cool," I continued to the girl. And then I sat back down and wondered.
Do they tease you at school? I wondered to myself. How do you deal with it? Does it help that your patch is cool and emblazoned with super powers? Maybe people think it's cool instead of teasing you. How does it affect you when people make comments that aren't so nice? Or when they stare at you? Are you too young to notice? Or has your Mommy trained you with what to say? Or maybe you go to a really good school where the kids have all been taught to be socially accepting. I really wonder. There's not much I can do because I'm not there to make them be nice to you. The only thing I can do is tell you how cool the patch is and hope that on some level you hear the words and they'll be your armor for the day, if you need them. I hope you don't, though. You seem okay. But then, who knows?
Later on today I came across a book called The Shabbat Box. In it the main character has a mishap and his class' Shabbat Box falls into the snow. He gets very upset about this and cries because it is ruined. Later on he makes his own Shabbat Box and brings it in for Show & Tell. He shows it to all the students and tells them about how the class' Shabbat Box fell into the snow. But, the book mentions, "he didn't tell them about how he had cried. He didn't want them to think he was a baby."
Lesley Simpson, shame on you. You write a book for kids, in which a child is very upset when he ruins his class' project, and he understandably cries. Yet you then include the fact that he doesn't tell this to the class because he's worried they will think he is a baby. That'd be fine if you later addressed this in the book and talked about how that would be inappropriate on the children's part. But you leave it alone, so that the message the kids get is they shouldn't cry or talk about the fact that they cry because they'd be considered a 'baby' if they did so. And that's considered an appropriate and successful children's book? It's a book I would never read to my kids.
In total contrast, look at an excerpt from Taylor Mali on "What Teachers Make." (Thanks, William.)
"Hi, this is Mr. Mali. I hope I haven't called at a bad time. I just wanted to talk to you about something that your son did today. He said, 'Leave the kid alone! I still cry sometimes. Don't you?' and it was the noblest act of courage that I have ever seen. I make parents see their children for who they are and who they can be."
That kid was a kinder person than you, Lesley Simpson. You fed into the typical understanding of tears and sadness as something shameful and helped propagate it for everyone else- that boy stood up for someone else. You had an opportunity to have kids talk about tears and shame openly and totally let it fall to the wayside- that little boy defended his classmate. Let no one ever say that adults know what they are talking about- I'd choose children over adults 99 times out of 100. And the only reason it isn't 100 times out of 100 is because kids can be some of the cruelest bullies you'll ever see- and that's the reason I can't always pick them. But you should know - in general, kids look out for my welfare a whole lot better than the adults I know.