On a desperate mission to leave our plagued house a couple nights ago (I believe this was post-ear infection but pre-stomach bug), Luella and I found ourselves perusing the racks at Goodwill.  She sat in her stroller while I packed treasured finds around her: $12 leather boots, maternity clothes for a friend, and an entirely unnecessary toddler-sized, fuchsia dance costume (just joking, that was an essential purchase).

Dressed up

Dressed up

We hauled our goods up to the counter and the store clerk sneaked a peek Luella and began to chatter away. 

Store Clerk: “She’s still kind of awake, huh?”
Me: “Yup.”
Store Clerk: “Boy, her eyes look so tired, that one is starting to close!”
Me: “Yup.”
Store Clerk: “Better get her home so she can get to bed.  But I bet she’ll fall asleep in the car!”
Me: “Yup.”

Here’s the thing: Luella wasn’t tired. THAT’S WHAT HER FACE LOOKS LIKE.

This is not a sleepy baby.

This is not a sleepy baby.

This conversation happens so often that I almost find it entertaining.  I don’t really see it, but because of Luella’s vision issues, apparently she looks tired, uh, all the time.

Generally, I passively agree with whatever the other person says.  “Did she just wake up?” Yup.  “Is she about ready to go to sleep?” Yup.  Whatever.

But some of the other conversations are getting to me.  People start what they consider harmless small talk, putting me in the awkward position of lying or divulging more than I’d like.

“So, is she crawling/walking/talking yet?”
“I bet you’re busy chasing her all around, huh?”
“They really start to babble your ear off at this age, don’t they?”

Working hard at physical therapy

Working hard at physical therapy

I don’t often become unhinged by assumptions about her development, but it’s pretty awkward and, more importantly, a CONSTANT reminder that we often forget that people with all sorts of delays and disabilities exist.

So, here I give you four ways of asking questions about someone’s child that leaves room for disabilities:

  1. “What types of things does your child like to do?”
  2. “What is your child like?”
  3. “What fun stuff have you two done recently?”
  4. “I see they’re looking at toys/reading a book/listening to music.  What’s their favorite toy/book/music?

Another tip: if you ask a question and someone responds with “my child is on a different schedule/has cerebral palsy/doesn’t walk/etc.”, resist the urge to let the moment melt into awkward silence or give a pep talk (OH REALLY, you’re sure my child will learn to walk?  Please show me your medical credentials.).  Instead, refocus and follow up with one of the questions above.

photo 2

I’m realistic: I know that uncomfortable situations will continue to arise.  And we (Luella, myself, and awkward-maker) will survive.

But beyond just surviving, maybe we could all work on making things a little less awkward, ‘kay?  After all, keeping assumptions out of the picture can make things a lot less exhausting, no matter how sleepy anyone actually is.


Health Update: Luella is now off of the medication that was working to keep her arms loose.  Her specialists decided that it wasn’t worth it after seeing how far back it set her trunk and head control.  She has dealt well with the changes and now we’re at some middle ground: better at holding up her head and slightly looser arms.

Luella also successfully recovered from her first cold EVER.  We’re thrilled to see that her body did what it was supposed to do without any complications.  Hooray!

She has been busy with physical therapy and playing with lots of different toys there.  We are working on ordering her a chair that will allow her to sit at the dinner table and a “stander” to help her stand (duh).  Despite a cold and some tummy troubles, she’s been in her usual fine spirits!

6 thoughts on “Awkward

  1. Ugh! You are so kind and compassionate and clear and amazing. It is so hard for self centered people like myself to remember that everyone around me isn’t coming from exactly my background and perspective (*mentally replays exact conversation from above*). Thanks for this reminder– my mantra this week: eschew assumptions (or “f-you assumptions”, can’t decide). This post is my weekly church sermon! Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

  2. I don’t know you personally, But I see your post when Staci comments. Your situation, while different in some ways, is incredibly similar in a lot of ways. We have been working on a diagnosis for my Son, who has some sort of neurological disorder. This post really hit home with me, because we get all the same questions from everyone. Is He tired? Is he walking yet? Is he talking yet? It is a constant reminder that your child is different. I find myself lying as well, or just nodding my head, because I am not going to take the time to explain everything that is going on. Just know that there are plenty of parents struggling through the same things, and that regardless of everything, your child is still an incredible blessing and all we can do is our best to love and support them through this journey. Hoping for continued progress for Luella and strength for your family.
    Here is a link to my wife and My blog about our son.

  3. Thank you for writing this! As a parent of a child that had her own developmental challenges I applaud you for making this list. My daughter has a huge scar on her stomach from a surgery that helped save her life. It was annoying enough to get questioned about it from strangers, but it would really aggravate me when friends and family would ask about her scar as if they had a mental brain lapse. There aren’t that many children that have cancer. I can totally relate with mindlessly agreeing with repetitive questions. Luckily she is older now so we have much less trips to the childrens hospital. After reading this and seeing your daughter’s picture I realized our paths had crossed before. At the Bellingham Farmer’s Market we were in the tent next to yours raising money for childhood cancer. Your daughter was adorable then and she just keeps getting cuter.

  4. Jennifer. You are such a wonderful mother! I am always so proud of you. Kelly and I are both so glad we had you as a student. I’m so glad she suggested I get on FB so I can keep in touch with my “favorite” students. Just keep smiling – even if it’s hard to do at the same time you’re gritting your teeth.


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