My Son’s New Friend Kelsey
We’ve all been there – one day you’re thrilled that your toddler has so many words, and the next moment you find yourself holding your breath as those very same words you were excited to hear have now emerged as an innocent, yet sometimes awkward, comment in the middle of a crowded place. We teach our toddlers to be inquisitive, to be curious, to ask questions (like my son’s oh-so-favorite question: why?!), to seek understanding… but how do we respond when they ask those questions in the middle of the busy grocery store with all eyes on us?
One of my favorite moments with my son was a few weekends ago when he met his new friend, Kelsey*. We had escaped the summer heat and ducked into a new local pizza place to grab a quick bite to eat. A few minutes into our lunch, my toddler perked up, pointed adamantly in the direction of another family seated across the dining area, and declared in the loudest voice he could possibly have mustered: “Mama, Why that big girl have a stroller? Why she have a seat belt not in the car, mama? You see her stroller, mom?” There was no doubt that the family (along with everyone in a 5 mile radius) had heard his excited line of questioning. In that moment I hoped and prayed that my little guy’s inquisitive nature hadn’t hurt the feelings of the little girl in question. I wondered how my son’s line of commentary made this family feel. Were they comfortable with inquisitive children? Did they get questions often? Or did people typically rush to quiet their children and pretend that the questions never happened, ignoring the scenario that had presented itself? In that moment I knew that my son’s questions were important, and I knew it was even more important that I took hold of this opportunity to allow him to get to know the little girl behind the wheelchair and the seat belt that he first saw.
What the restaurant full of people may not have expected was what happened next: Cole met his new friend Kelsey.
Following Cole’s inquiry, we hopped out of our seats and headed over to say hello. I explained that my son had asked about Kelsey’s wheelchair but that I had wanted him to see and meet Kelsey who just so happened to use a wheelchair to get around. Before I could say another word, Kelsey’s mom jumped in. With the kindest heart, she thanked Cole for his question and introduced him to her eighteen-year-old daughter, Kelsey, explaining that Kelsey can’t speak on her own but that she loves to meet new people. Cole quickly noticed that Kelsey was beaming the most beautiful smile from ear to ear as he exclaimed “Mama, she’s happy!” Guided by the kindness and gentleness of Kelsey’s incredible mother, Cole and Kelsey began to interact. From sharing high fives to showing off the cool tricks her wheelchair can do, Kelsey and Cole connected and laughed. Kelsey giggled as Cole switched between offering high-fives and fist bumps, and Cole broke into hysterics as Kelsey showed off how she could swivel her chair.
As I tucked Cole into bed that night he whispered “Good night, Kelsey, sleep tight.” When he woke up in the morning his new friend was the first thing on his mind. He didn’t speak of her wheelchair or the seatbelt that she used.
He talked of the way she smiled and laughed.
I’m a thrill-seeker by day, yet homebody at heart, reveling in quality time spent with my two-year old son and husband of five years. Master of building forts and picking up perfectly-cooked toddler meals that have been thrown on the floor, I strive to find humor and grace in the balancing act of being a working mama and wife.
- Family Room blog: 6 Small Ways to Teach Children to Be Kind
- E-Family News: Tips for Helping Children Make Friends
- Growing Givers is a resource to help you find age-appropriate activities, projects, and volunteer opportunities to encourage empathy, caring, and compassion for the world and all its people.