Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Public Service Announcement: Staring and/or Pointing Aren't Nice

I was never the center of any stranger's attention until I had Little Bug.  For almost 3 years now, everywhere we go, at least one person (if not five or ten) tells me how adorable my baby is.  "He has the biggest blue eyes!"  This is true.  Well, this is almost true.  He IS adorable, and he does have beautiful blue eyes.  But he is not a baby, only little.  I do not mind this, though, because people are well-intentioned, and I am happy to share my sweet boy.  Sometimes, if people are genuinely interested in him and strike up a conversation (yeah, people do that a lot, actually), then I am willing to share a bit more about him, like that he is almost 3 years, a very good boy, very smart, loves trains, and/or has brittle bones.

Little Bug is a great errand-runner.  He behaves and listens so well in stores (usually) that we go out and about several times a week.  I make it a point to go into stores for small errands to give Little Bug the opportunity to use his walker.  This is good exercise for him and good practice functioning in areas that, while intended to be handicapped accessible, are not always easy to navigate.  Plus, after that nasty humerus fracture (see my June Post), I think it is better to be in the habit of having that walker for extra support.

The attention that Little Bug attracted as a baby (or a child in a shopping cart seat that people assumed was a baby because of his size) is nothing compared to what can only be described as the "spectacle" of us shopping while he uses his walker.  Everybody---and I mean EVERY BODY---takes a moment (or longer) to check us out. 

OK, so I know that it is not common to see a small child using a walker.  I really do get that.  Little Bug is probably the size of the average 9-month old, which is smaller than the average child that is learning to walk.  After some mild to moderate gawking at us, most people smile and tell me how adorable he is, and then they continue on their way.  I am not bothered by this, either. (I mean, geez, he IS adorable.)  Some people ask me questions, and this is fine, too.  While I can't speak for every person or parent of a child with a disability, I think most people are receptive to respectful curiosity.  But it is not polite to stare or point.  I am really surprised by the number of people who are completely unabashed when they are blatantly staring at someone.

I hope it doesn't come across that I am being whiny or preachy.  But yesterday, I just had way too many children stop, back up, point at us, then yell to their mothers in the Target to "look at this baby."  (I think the whole county was there back-to-school shopping, or something.)  I don't generally take it personally when a young child says things like this because I understand that children are naturally interested in people that are different.  If it were only children who acted like this, it would probably not be worth mentioning at all.  But I have seen people stop at stop signs for a full 30 seconds watching us. I have seen people driving come to a full stop (who are not approaching a stop sign) to check us out. Full-grown adults have made it a point to stop, look, and point at my son.  I find it hard to believe that people are being cruel because I really do not believe most people are that mean-spirited.  I think that they just do not understand.  And I have no idea how to make them understand.  All I can say, for the record, is that staring and/or pointing aren't nice.

One day, Little Bug will be older, and I am sure he will find ways to handle these situations.  Undoubtedly, he will handle them better than I do.  (By the way, in the absense of a better solution, I generally just ignore these negative situations entirely.)  One blogger, who is a true sage and fantastic writer, posted this insightful piece about how to handle staring: Perfectly Imperfecta, "As Subtle as Snow in April".  I certainly cannot add anything to her words there.

I have included a short video of Little Bug with his walker.  This way, if you've never seen a little person with a walker, you now get your chance!  And if you see a little person with a walker in the Target some day, it won't seem so strange since you'll have seen it before.  (Plus, this is validation that he really is just adorable, so it is understandable why someone would gawk at the cuteness.)