equality · love · parenthood

Mama is that a robot leg?


Today at the zoo my son saw a prosthetic leg for the first time. Here is the convo that followed his observation:

Rory: Mama look! Is that a robot leg???

Me: ………

Rory: Mama is it????

Me: *sweating*

My internal dialogue: Shit, he’s pointing at this woman and calling her a robot. She hates me. She hates my kid. She thinks I’m a terrible mother who’s taught my kid shit about diversity or differences. Get it together woman, your son needs an answer stat. It better be a good, graceful, teachable set of words lady. Come on, what are you gonna say??? Speak woman, speak.

I pushed our stroller off to the side of the path and knelt down to his level taking his hands in mine.

Me: Rory, she is not a robot. She’s a person just like you, she just looks different. None of us look the same. She doesn’t have two legs like yours. She needs a special leg so she can walk.

Rory: Oh she have a boo boo?

Me: I don’t know. I don’t know why she needs a special leg, but it’s special and it helps her to walk. Lots of people have different special things about them that make them who they are. Like your hair. You have special red curly hair.

Rory: *giggles* Ok mama, can I have my pirate booty now?

Alrighty. I guess that concludes our grand lesson on diversity for today. Of course, I haven’t stopped thinking about it since it happened. I’ve played the whole scenario in my head twelve times and kicked myself for not handling it better or saying something more profound and meaningful. Teaching diversity is so very important to me. I hope to raise my children to appreciate differences and challenge stereotypes. I want them to see the world and experience different cultures and people and inspire them to stand up for equality and seek change where it is needed. Above all, I want to teach them compassion and understanding and a great deal of that starts with dialogue surrounding differences.

I think too many people have this mindset of “I don’t see color”. No. Our world is full of colors and languages and two legs and one legs. If I did anything right today, it was NOT glossing over my sons question and telling him he shouldn’t see robot legs. Step one was certainly acknowledging that yes, her leg is different and we should embrace that. Now step two, three and four and so on I’m admittedly a little clueless about, but the one lesson my son taught ME today was that the conversation is never over.

I will have so many more opportunities to teach him better. To reinforce what I taught him today or what I will teach him tomorrow. And thanks to good ole Bing (my husband is doing back flips of joy because I didn’t say Google), I can read up on ways to teach him in more meaningful, productive ways. Here’s an article my initial search results found that was a good starting place for me. Maybe it will be equally helpful for anyone else out there struggling with how to teach their kids well.

Teaching Children About Diversity

Despite my fears on handling todays scenario all wrong, I do at least find comfort in the fact that my kid was truly asking about the robot leg because he thought it was effing cool and probably wanted one too. I guess that means I’ve done something right cause let’s face it, robots are badass.

Note to self: Don’t let Ron Burgundy teach my kid about diversity.


Please, tell me how to do this better! How do you teach your kids about diversity?

7 thoughts on “Mama is that a robot leg?

  1. I think you handled it beautifully and with grace. You listened to him, explained with honesty appropriate for his age, and didn’t dismiss a teachable moment. You killed it, mama! An understanding of the world’s diversity and acceptance for all is an important lesson I am trying to share with my children, as well. I can really worry over it, and yet, I think it can be as simple as exposure. We try to go to different cultural museums and events, read books with a varied cast of characters, and play this fantastic card game by Eboo that pictures children of the world. This, and trying to do exactly what you did at the zoo, are the best I have come up with so far for building a foundation to have deeper conversations in the future. Here’s to working together to raise a more compassionate generation!


  2. I think you handled it wonderfully! I love that he thought robot leg. If I were to guess, I think the woman was happy with the way you handled it. I am sure she gets it a lot and you talking about it is better than telling your kid not to notice differences and shushing him! My son calls everyone girl or boy and there have been some embarrassing moments out of this, but I do try to correct him in the most PC way possible.


  3. I love this and I absolutely LOVE the way you handled it. You could have glossed over it or ignored it but you didn’t. You answered him in terms he could understand and if I had to guess, I bet that woman would have loved the way you explained it as well.
    Having said all that, I still dread the day my toddler loudly starts asking questions like this… my mommy panic mode will be in full effect (and I’m a social worker, I should know how to deal with this stuff lol)

    Simply Shaunacey

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my goodness, I’m a social worker too! I’m always way more anxious when things happen in my own life and it’s like all my knowledge and expertise leaves my brain in those moments. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. I’m just glad I have plenty more opportunities ahead of me to keep responding in even better ways than the first 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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