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).
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?”
Store Clerk: “Boy, her eyes look so tired, that one is starting to close!”
Store Clerk: “Better get her home so she can get to bed. But I bet she’ll fall asleep in the car!”
Here’s the thing: Luella wasn’t tired. THAT’S WHAT HER FACE LOOKS LIKE.
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?”
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:
- “What types of things does your child like to do?”
- “What is your child like?”
- “What fun stuff have you two done recently?”
- “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.
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!