Christian Taylor Buchanan

Christian Taylor Buchanan

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Five Tips To Teach Your Kids about People With Differences - Part One

We have all been there, including me. You are innocently grocery shopping or at a play ground or doing some typical activity, when suddenly, your child notices someone with a disability, or difference, and rather loudly and uncouthly proclaims her discovery for everyone within a 3 mile radius to hear. You are embarrassed, and maybe a little ashamed that your child is that kid. You might try to apologize, or maybe you just grab your kiddo and make a run for it, red faced and all.

If you haven't experienced this, you just aren't living! haha! Seriously though. I have even been through something similar with two year old, not-yet-talking Chandler, who is around Christian every single day of his life! A friend invited me to a meet and greet of a sweet man named Frederick.  I was so excited to attend this meeting with Chandler in tow. Frederick lived in Rwanda in the 90's during a mass genocide of Tutsi people. We listened to Frederick recant the harrowing day that the bus he was on was stopped by a group of Hutu, who were the perpetrators of the killings. He can tell the story much better than I can, but in short, all the passengers on the bus were removed. Frederick was given a weapon (I can't remember now if it was a knife or a gun) and asked to kill all the other passengers in exchange for his life being spared. Frederick refused, and so the Hutu group cut off both of Fredericks hands past the wrist, tied him to a tree, and left to die. The rope actually acted of tourniquet that stopped blood loss. Frederick amazingly survived, but was left, of course, without his hands.

Frederick Ndabaramiye
You can get Frederick's book here and read his full account of his story:

After Frederick spoke, he took time to meet folks who came to hear him. I was excited to get a book signed and talk to Frederick. When it was our turn, Frederick's eye lit up at Chandler. I mean, what can I say? He's a cute kid. Frederick seemed to especially love children from what I gathered. He reached out and asked Chandler to come to him. Chandler just stared at Frederick's arms where he knew hands should be. Frederick continued to reach out and asked Chandler if he could hold him. At this point, Chandler began grabbing me as if Frederick was trying to kidnap him and screaming an ear-piercing, earth shatter scream. He was absolutely terrified of Frederick because of Frederick's difference. I felt a wave of emotions, including but not limited to wanting to just dig a hole and crawl in it right then and there. I apologized to Frederick profusely and tried to comfort Chandler. Frederick was kind enough to hold his arm out and let Chandler watch me touch it so that he would know it was okay, but alas, nothing quieted Chandler's terror except to get away from what scared him. *sigh*

That day sticks out to me because I finally knew what it was like being on the other side of the isle. I felt what these parents were feeling when their child did something embarrassing around my Christian. I always saw their embarrassment, but I had never felt it the way I did that day. So, I can say that, even though we are mostly on the receiving end of some embarrassing comments, I have lots of sympathy for parents who just want to raise decent humans and yet still feel like it's an uphill battle. I've been there!

I was asked this week on social media, and I get asked often, what my advice is for teaching children about people with differences, acceptance, and inclusion. And TADA! This blog post was born. I want to take a little pressure off and give you guys my pointers for helping your kids learn about differences so that maybe one day they won't embarrass the snot out of you in public will be good people who can look past a disability and see a person first. I also wanted to include some practical tips along the way! So, here is part one of my five part series on teaching your kids about differently abled people or people with differences. I hope you find this post helpful and practical for your every day life! So, here goes!

 Five Tips To Teach Your Kids about People With Differences  - Part 1

Rule Number 1 - Don't Avoid People with Differences

A cute photo of Christian just because!
Differences are not the elephant in the room. You don't have to turn and go the other way for fear of your child saying something that points out a person's difference.  You don't have to avoid looking at, making eye contact with, or noticing a person with a difference. I mean, don't stare, but hey, I don't have any physical differences and I would be a little creeped out if someone was staring at me, too, ya know? You don't have to pretend that a person's difference doesn't exist. That person who you are trying to pretend isn't in a wheelchair totally knows they are in a wheelchair! :D So, if you worry that you feel awkward and don't want to embarrass yourself, I get it, but the only way you are going to stop feeling awkward is to step out of your comfort zone and dive in! It really is okay to not say the perfect thing or react in the perfect way. It's okay to feel awkward. What's not okay is missing out on the amazing people you could know if you give yourself the grace to get it wrong and go talk to someone who is different.

Noticing and asking me about Christian's facial difference is truly okay. It isn't going to bring about some shock. I am not going to look at his face for the first time and realize that it's different. I already know and I happen to love his face! I squeeze it all. the. time because it's so cute! I don't mind talking about Christian or his difference. In fact, you might have trouble getting me to stop blabbing about Christian once I get started. (Have you seen this blog?!)  I'm pretty much his biggest fan. Christian has even learned to tell people when they ask him what happened to his eyes, "That's how I was born!" as he bounces and hops about happily. He knows he has a difference and as far as he's concerned, he's cool with it. We know he is different. Issues would arise if you judged him poorly based on his difference. That would not be cool.

Avoiding us, even if you think you are just trying to spare us, sends the opposite message of acceptance and inclusion. Turning away from, avoiding, or ignoring people with differences tells kids (and those of us in the disabled community) that this is how people with differences are to be treated.

You also don't have to walk on egg shells around people with disabilities for fear of offending them. I have seen it so many times, and I appreciate that people care enough about our feelings to go to such lengths to avoid hurting us, but we really don't have paper thin skin and our feelings are just not that fragile. I have found that most folks are not offended by well meaning questions, even poorly worded ones. I have also noticed that especially when someone realizes that a parent is bringing their child forward to help them understand, people with differences are generally more than happy to talk to those children! Why wouldn't they be? Each person they reach is one less person to carry on the stigma that so many differently abled people have to live with every day.

If you, in all good intentions, talk to a person who happens to have a difference and they are rude to you, I can almost guarantee that you can chalk that up to them having a bad day or just not being a nice person. I wouldn't count that as you doing something wrong. Maybe you did say something that wasn't exactly kosher. It's easy to do. That doesn't give anyone an excuse to be rude. If it bothers them that much, they can take time to educate you on what language they would prefer.

People with differences are just people, and they generally want human connection like the rest of us. Please realize that you don't have to, nor do I encourage, that you focus on the person's difference when trying to initiate a conversation. I would even suggest that you don't start off with, "Hi, so, I noticed you're in a wheel chair." Their response might be


May I suggest, instead, some of these introduction lines:

  • Hi, how are you doing?
  • Good day! How's it going?
  • Hi, my name is Lacey. What's yours?
  • Nice to meet you.
  • Love your Backstreet Boys shirt! They're my favorite! (I tailored that one for me, but you can insert your own favorite band. 😂) 

I hope you laughed at that a little, but I also hope you see what I'm trying to say. However you would approach any other person and strike up a conversation, there is no reason to do anything different when it's a person with a difference.

Please don't think that I'm saying that talking about a person's disability or difference isn't off topic, either. If the conversation naturally gleans that way, by all means, discuss it. Just don't force it. Talking about your brother's friend's grandma's cousin having a similar condition is a bit of a stretch. But you can tell them your child is curious about their chair and you were wondering if it would be okay to come talk to them about it. I bet almost everyone would be happy to oblige. And if they say no, well, you can just say, "Okay, thanks anyways!" and smile and walk away. Sometimes you might just catch someone when it isn't a good time.

So, I hope you found this informative! I hope you laughed! But most of all, I hope you found this blog helpful in understanding how important it is to include people with differences, and how avoiding them can cause unintended harm.

See you next Thursday for Part two of this series, Five Rules To Teach Your Kids about People With Differences!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

How Christian Experienced the Solar Eclipse

Hey all! I'm excited to write about our experience viewing the solar eclipse that happened on August 21, 2017 across the US! We are lucky enough to live near Nashville and be right in the line of totality, so it was a HUGE event in our area. People came from all over to be a part of the experience! I'll just say, it was deserving of the hype!

Chris's work allowed their employees to turn their phones off at their desks and come outside for about half an hour to enjoy the event, so I decided that the boys and I would meet him at his work so that we could all be together for such a big event. I wanted my boys to have memories of the event as a family, so we did! 

We met Chris at his work about an hour before totality and hung out on the lawn for a bit. I had talked with the boys a lot about the eclipse and what was going to happen. I didn't want them to be scared, because my boys tend to get scared when they don't understand something unusual or are introduced to something different or new. So, I prepped them a lot. They could recite exactly what an eclipse was and what we were going to watch. :) I also wanted it to be a learning experience because we are homeschooling, and I knew that this would probably be the only chance any of us ever got to see a total solar eclipse. We made a really big deal of it, because it was a big deal! 

When I would tell people that we were planning on watching the eclipse, many people would say, "Oh, it's so sad he won't be able to see it!" I knew, of course, that Christian wasn't going to be able to experience the eclipse like we do, but I also knew that there were so many ways he could experience and enjoy it! I was prepared to help him experience it to the fullest. 

C and I enjoyed some sunshine before the eclipse
So, I wanted to write this to tell you guys how exactly he experienced the eclipse and what he thought of it! It was not a sad event at all and so I hope to dispel any misunderstanding about his visual impairment! He really did enjoy it except for when he cried because people were cheering. He hates people cheering! haha!

So, we got to Chris's work in plenty of time to make sure we didn't miss anything. We waited around for a bit for Chris to be able to come outside, and really, everyone came out all at once. He works at a large call center, so there were lots of people to enjoy the eclipse with! 

We all knew that the eclipse was about to happen because we could watch through our eclipse glasses. Christian knew it was about to happen because we were counting down verbally to him. The anticipation for everyone was the same. :)

At the moment of totality, Christian knew it had happened. Everyone, including me, started cheering. That sent Christian into tears because he HATES people cheering. We still aren't sure why and he isn't able to explain it to us. So, at first, he cried just a little. When I got him to calm down and the cheering stopped, I asked him to look up and see if he could see the sunlight. 

Christian lifting his head to see the sunlight
Before the eclipse, he could lift his head up and see the sunlight. He could also feel the warmth on his face. Once the eclipse happened, it was literally like nighttime outside, and Christian could tell that there was no sunlight. Not only by looking up and seeing nothing, but also, the news reported that temperatures dropped on average seven degrees during totality. Christian could feel the coolness. So could we!

In a matter of moments, there were so many sounds to take in. Before totality, people were chattering, counting down, cheering. At totality, the entire crowd erupted with applause and cheers, then for a moment, silent awe. That silence didn't last long. Everyone began buzzing about, taking pictures, talking all at once. It was an amazing moment to experience together with others. It was as if time stood still for that minute and a half, that we were all suspended in that moment! Everything was crazy and calm all at once. It was almost surreal, really, and so hard to explain exactly what it was like to be there. 

But there were so many other sounds as well. Crickets began chirping loudly. Christian noticed them quickly. They were singing just as if it were 8pm. It was a pretty neat thing to experience! Christian listened intently and also heard birds singing their evening songs, but the birds were not as loud or consistent as the crickets.  

Chan trying out his solar glasses
When the sun peaked out from behind the moon again and night turned back to day the air began to warm again and sunlight touched our skin, the crickets stopped singing, the sunlight shined brightly, and everyone began, almost immediately, shuffling back inside to their work. Everything quickly turned back into what it was supposed to be. Day time was day time again. Reality resumed. Time was set into motion again. 

Christian was left a little less than impressed for a moment as he continued to recover from the upset of hearing a crowd of cheering people. lol. Chandler was busy running around in the grass, chasing a little girl he had befriended. Everything was back to normal. :) 

So, although Christian couldn't see the eclipse, please don't feel sorry for him. He did get to experience it! He did get to "enjoy" it. I only put the word enjoy in quotations because the cheering almost did him in. Bless! :)  We talked about the eclipse for several days afterwards and I asked the boys what they thought. Christian's response was "That's cool!" :)

Christian does get to enjoy life experiences. He thoroughly enjoys life and all the experiences he partakes in. He doesn't get to experience things the way we do, sure, but that doesn't mean it's any less rich or full. Christian's life is so
rich and full! 

I hope this helped you see into Christian's world just a little and understand how he takes it all in! Please subscribe if you enjoy reading my blog!