Stuffed animals: a piece of the puzzle in the larger movement against ableism?
Meet Lamb. Lamb is a part of my two year old daughter’s core crew that accompany her almost everywhere she goes. Lamb can usually be found with Cat, Dog, and Duck. Sometimes Horse joins. Accompanying my daughter, Lamb likes to dance, eat chicken and fries, go for drives, and take walks around the neighborhood. Never, however, not even at the insistence of my daughter, is Lamb allowed to go in the bath tub.
Lamb has a missing ear. I am unsure how that happened. Maybe it was a startling dance accident. Perhaps Jane (the house cat) took Lamb down in a dark alley. Regardless, a lamb ear sat on our mantle for three weeks. And do you know what happened in those three weeks? Nothing. My daughter never once noticed that her beloved lamb was missing an ear. Absolutely nothing changed about the way they played together.
So what did I do? I disposed of that ear and if a similar incident happens in your house, I encourage you to consider doing the same. Don’t fix the toy , let your little one love that toy just the same. Let us not teach kids that only one body shape is acceptable and if found to be otherwise shaped, that it must be “fixed” or even worse, discarded.
In life, people have a variety of body shapes. Sometimes people keep the general shape of body they were born with. For numerous reasons, sometimes people’s body shape changes at some point in their life.
Throwing out a child’s stuffed bear after its arm or leg tears then later admonish the same child to be respectful of someone with one leg are two contradicting messages. I do not know if my toddler will ever make a direct connection between how we reacted to her lambs missing ear mystery and people we may encounter in everyday life, but I do know that children are keen observers and have a hawk-eye for contradiction. Consistency is essential