A few weeks ago, I saw a news feature online about CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell, who’s missing part of her arm.
It talked about how, when she first appeared on TV, people complained, claiming her arm would frighten their children.
Now, Kitty may only be 13 weeks old, but so far, I don’t think she’s scared anyone. In fact – despite me having my spiel ready should anyone ask – hardly anyone has mentioned her arm. They’re obviously too busy looking at her chubby cheeks, cute toes and gorgeous grin.
Scary? Who, me?
And kids seemed the most unconcerned of anyone.
Our friends and family have taken various approaches with their kids; some telling them about Kitty’s arm, others not mentioning it at all. One little girl, who had been told, came straight up to her when they first met, took hold of her little arm and gently stroked it while giving me the biggest smile you’ve ever seen.
My four-year-old niece simply tells us about all the games she’s going to play with her when she’s bigger, and how she’ll help Kitty with anything she struggles to do.
Then the other day, the question finally came from a friend’s three-year-old. It was the third time he’d met Kitty and clearly the first time he’d noticed.
‘Mummy, why has Kitty only got one hand?’ he asked.
‘Some people have two hands, some people have one. Some people have two legs, some people have one. It’s just what’s different about Kitty,’ his Mummy explained.
He looked at Kitty for a second, processing the information, then ran off to play with his brother. Definitely not scared in the slightest.
It only goes to show that prejudice is the product of nurture, not nature. It’s only as we get older that we start to feel uncomfortable around people who are different from us, and this discomfort sometimes prompts some very childish behaviour – like complaining about a children’s TV presenter kids clearly love.
We’re bound to get questions as Kitty grows up, but the questions children ask are borne of nothing but innocent curiosity.
And teaching her to respond honestly and simply will be key to building her confidence.
Now I just have to discourage her Daddy from getting her to tell people it was bitten off when she was wrestling a lion.
Though the kids would probably love that.