07 February 2013
Where I Rant and Rave
We were in line at Fred Meyer when the lady in front of us turned around and said, "She is just so cute! What a darling little girl! Oh my, she is just the cutest thing!"
I take praise about my children's cuteness with a grain or two of salt because some people seem to lose it around small children. I think my kids are the cutest ever, but I figure no one's really going to tell us our kids are ugly even if they think it's true.
A minute later she turned around again. "What are her disabilities?"
I'm not what you would call quick with the comebacks. When someone catches me off guard by asking an intensely personal question I pretty much start turning red and stare stupidly before I can catch my bearings. Finally I responded, "Well, she has dwarfism, but we don't really consider that a disability."
"Oh." She said. "Well, she is such a cute girl."
At home I relayed this story to David. He glanced at Daph, who happened to be performing some acrobatic stunts off the side of Christian's high chair at that moment and said, "I don't think anyone can take a look at that girl and think she's disabled."
And that pretty much ended our conversation.
This encounter got me thinking about what I want people saying to us or asking us in public. It's a question I hate thinking about because (and you may think I'm crazy here) when I look at Daphne I don't see anything wrong with her. I think part of the reason I get so flummoxed when people ask about her is because it takes me a second to understand what they're asking. I forget that others might notice anything different about her.
My heart aches when I realize they do.
A year or so ago, a lady stopped me in Costco and asked a question about Daphne. She was raising her grandchild who had some pretty severe health issues, and she said to me, "We're a part of a pretty close-knit group, aren't we?" I think she sensed my confusion, because she clarified by saying, "the group of us raising handicapped children. We stick together."
Then I was ultra confused. I feel as though my peers and I are just raising children. That's all. We talk about discipline issues and eating issues and sleep issues. We talk about our plans for schooling and whether or not our kids should be in sports. I like to talk about the great deals on name brand clothing I find on half price day at the Salvation Army (best day of the week). But am I supposed to be in a different group? A group with the 'handicapped' kids? Is that where people picture us and expect us to be?
Maybe we're doing it wrong, but we raise Daphne just like we would raise any other kid. Maybe she is 'handicapped,' I don't know, but we certainly don't think of her that way. She's just our kid, who, quite frankly, can do anything any other 4 year old can do.
I don't mind when someone asks us about her shoes. Asking why she wears her braces is a lot better question than "what's wrong with her feet?" I can easily answer why she wears her shoes; I can't tell you what's 'wrong' with her feet. Nothing is wrong with my kid, people. Nothing.
So when you come in contact with someone you decide is uniquely different (because you're so perfectly normal?), don't ask any questions unless you have a genuine interest in his or her life. Don't be selfishly curious. Treat them like a person, because that's all they are. First and foremost, and to the people who love them most, they are just a person. That's how you should think of them as well.
Ask only the questions you would want someone asking your own child (or asking you). Remember the child you're asking about can hear you. And for goodness sakes, realize that sometimes, some things are just none of your business.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him." ~John 9:1-3
Daphne is a rock star, folks. She's got great things ahead of her. Maybe just ask me about that.