At least four or five times this weekend someone commented on how “tired” C looked. In some cases it was well-meaning: a woman who told us it was “so adorable how she is falling asleep!” In another case a man came up and stared and said rudely “She looks REALLY tired” as we entered the change room, implying we should take her home for a nap.
The thing is, she is not tired. In fact it’s past 9 and I’m sitting in the dark by her crib waiting for her to fall asleep. She doesn’t have the greatest head control so if you’re holding her she nestles in. Her head droops so she might seem drowsy.
I don’t correct people. “She’s not tired, she has a disability” is not a good conversation starter.
Her disability is more obvious now, as her twin climbs up the play structure and she needs support to be sitting. I find people have two reactions – either they stare as they try to compute what’s going on. Or they very obviously don’t stare – averting their gaze and avoiding eye contact.
How lovely when the odd person just sits down and starts to talk, addressing her like any other child, ignoring the elephant in the room, or acknowledging it in a simple way, like “Those AFOs are so cute these days with the patterns.” We go to our local pool so often the lifeguard recognized us and said “She’s grown so much since I saw her last!” I’m sure she remembers us partly because we have the kid with the disability, but she remembered the kid before the disability.
I’ve stared at people before, for many different reasons, and I try not care about those who do. But here’s a hint: if you get “caught” staring, smile.