On walk two little first graders. The little boy initially walked away from his mom and sister and sat on the ground in the middle of a bunch of people standing, cramped on the train. Then, his mom told him he'd probably get trampled on, so he came back and joined his family.
He walked right up to Michael, "What's wrong with your legs?" Can I just say, I love kids! They'll just go there, they don't care. And you know what? If you're reading this, and you have a kid, and you're all nervous about how they act around people in wheelchairs, trying to teach them not to stare and what not, don't let it be such a big deal! I obviously can't speak for everyone who's ever been stared at, but I've watched my husband, countless times, teach an important lesson to little ones, effortlessly.
little boy: "What's wrong with your legs?
M: "They don't work?"
little boy: "Why?"
M: "Because I broke my neck in high school." (this is one of the parts I like, because I don't think children automatically understand how breaking your neck can affect your legs, I mean, think about it)
little boy: "How?"
M: "I was doing gymnastics." (this is the part I hope the kids don't get scared that if they do gymnastics, this is going to be their future)
little boy's mom: "Don't ask him about that, he might not want to talk about it."
M: "No, it's okay."
the mom: "That's why it's really important to be careful."
little boy: "Why don't you use a cane?"
Me: silently chuckling
little girl chimes in: "What if you have to go down the stairs?"
the mom: "He uses an elevator."
little girl: "What if there's not an elevator?"
M (looking at me): "My wife helps me"
Then we all started talking about how we were going to the book festival. I don't remember their names now, but they were twins, and the little girl had cute freckles on her nose. And I saw the mom telling them if they got lost to go talk to someone who's wearing a badge, and she pointed someone with a badge out so they would know what she meant, and I remember thinking that's a good idea.
When we got to the National Mall, we saw this family again. The kids ran up to M, "Mike, hi!!"
The kids, they love him. Let your kids ask, it's not a big deal, it can be fun, and they can hopefully learn something, and hopefully not be scared to ever do a flip again!