Friday, February 07 2014
As the mom of a special needs kid, I feel it is my duty to bring awareness to the general public about how to act towards the family of a special needs person when you are curious. The problem is, not everyone agrees on the proper etiquette. Therefore, it is hard to give the rest of the population an idea of how to act when they encounter someone who looks different than they do.
The purpose of this post is to share my thoughts on the issue. I realize we all have different circumstances and opinions and my point is not to deem anyone else’s opinion wrong, it is just to get people thinking.
I wanted to elaborate on the topic because so many people could relate to my last post about frequently being asked if Jaxon’s glasses are real. I just want to make sure it is known that the post was written in my first language, sarcasm, and I really do welcome questions from strangers about why Jaxon wears glasses.
I honestly think it’s hilarious when someone asks me if his glasses are real because it is hilarious to imagine a person going through what we go through everyday with our glasses wearing babies, just to make a fashion statement.
It's Annoying, I know
First of all, I understand why parents get annoyed with strangers constantly asking them questions. When you are out running errands and you are trying to get home before your baby needs a new diaper, it can be frustrating to be stopped by 13 people telling you that their granddaughter got her first pair of glasses when she was 8 months old and now she is 10 and she won a spelling bee at school last week. That’s really great lady, your granddaughter will do great things.
But, if we stop and think about it, getting annoyed and being rude to these people isn’t fair to them. Why do people ask questions in the first place? It’s because they want answers. They want to understand something. I see thousands of pages on Facebook trying to raise awareness for their child’s condition. If we are rude to the people who ask us in person about what is going on with our child, isn’t that denying their awareness to the very thing we are trying to raise awareness for?
I think it is important for parents of children with special needs to use these opportunities to teach versus getting offended and stomping away from a stranger with a question. Their question might seem rude to you, but try not to be sensitive about it and answer the question. It is important to the happiness of our children in the future that people understand their conditions and understand what they go through. Acceptance and equality starts with awareness.
What are you looking at?
Let’s think about the opposite now. Let’s say someone glances over at your child and you see them looking. The common reaction is being offended that someone is staring at your baby. You are offended that someone asks you about your child and you are offended that they look and don’t say anything at all. Well, you are better off to either leave your child at home or borrow Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak.
Now, in the case of people with glasses wearing babies, people who don’t approach us and tell us our baby is adorable are usually the ones who giggle and whisper to their friend. I guarantee they aren’t saying our babies are ugly, everyone knows that’s not true. If they know I caught them whispering, I usually just smile. Or I try to look the other way and pretend I didn’t notice.
Jax and I get a lot of attention at the store, mainly because I’m so good-looking, and he just happens to be in the cart. Just kidding. They are always looking at him, and the attention is never negative. Everyone notices him and gets all surprised and excited like they just found Mickey Mouse at Disney World. It’s because it’s not everyday you see a baby wearing glasses. It is a fairly new thing. Lucky for us, the medical industry has come a long way technology wise, so they can diagnose our children much earlier than before. Let’s just be thankful our babies are being helped as early as they are!
Seeing a baby in glasses causes people to be intrigued. And obviously, miniature things are always adorable (ponies, pop cans, and labradoodles, just to name a few). That is why they ask us questions. We should be happy they ask questions and give us compliments. I know I was worried how other people would treat us because Jaxon looked different. I was scared out of my wits and didn’t even want to share photos of his adorable face because I was nervous of how people would react. Then, I made a choice to embrace his difference and open up about it so I could help other people do the same. That way, when people did ask me about his issues, I could explain it to them and feel good about raising awareness.
Your Attitude Rubs off on Your Kid!
As our children get older, and they begin to understand that people are giving them compliments, they will get a bump in self-esteem as well. If we make it known that it is welcomed for strangers to give our children compliments on their glasses, eye patches or wheel chair decorations, instead of stares, maybe more kids will feel comfortable in having to use these things that help them. To make people feel okay about addressing an eye patch on a stranger’s child, we must make them aware that it is okay! We have to make our kids proud of their differences.
Children learn by observation. They adopt the same attitudes about things as you do. If you get offended and sensitive when you see a shirt that has a pair of glasses and says nerd on it, they are going to be sensitive about the topic as well. If you get angry when someone says your son looks like a pirate with his eye patch, your son is going to be self-conscious of his eye patch. If you get mad because someone calls your baby Harry Potter because he wears glasses, that’s silly, because Harry Potter is a wizard, and who doesn’t want to be a wizard?
Just teach your child to be open about what they’re going through. Teach them to say “argh!” if someone calls them a pirate. Teach them to associate their glasses with being intelligent and trustworthy, instead of a geek. Teach them how to stand up for themselves if a kid makes a rude comment. Teach them by your example. Always make their glasses wearing, patch wearing, or any thing that makes them different, a POSITIVE thing. Make it fun! Make it a game! Kids love that stuff!
My Point is:
This is where I return to the annoying people at the grocery store. Yes, they slow us down, but at least they care. They will always be there whether we like it or not. If they see one baby with glasses and ask if their glasses are real, chances are, when they see another baby wearing glasses, they will just know that the baby’s mom isn’t trying to make their child Suri Cruise (the most fashionable kid on the planet). People ask dumb questions, yes, but that’s because seeing a baby in glasses is apparently like seeing a unicorn.
Think of the questions as a teaching tool. Don’t be rude to people who care, because then they turn into people who stare, and no one wants to be stared at. That is how we raise awareness and encourage strangers to ask questions, by not being rude and making them scared to ask the next person they encounter. We were given these special babies for a reason. Let’s make the effort to show others the same compassion that we want others to show our special kids.
One Final Note, I swear!
It can be extremely discouraging if someone makes a rude comment about someone you love. The only reason they are making fun of them is because they are uncomfortable, uneducated, or have no self-confidence. As hard as it may be, don’t waste your time being angry about it. Your child will see that and learn to be sensitive to these comments. Show them how to be strong in the face of adversity and how to forgive others who might not understand. Tell them that their difference is what makes them strong and brave, kind of like a superhero. Teach them to be confident in themselves.
...and as always, thanks for the love!