Every time we go outside we feel the weight of stares. We have neighbors that won’t respond to a greeting but love to look through their windows at us as we practice the White Cane. Every restaurant, grocery trip, run to the mall is met with the weight of stares. Sure you’re curious, not trying to be rude. You don’t see any harm in watching, you’re not thinking mean thoughts, why shouldn’t you stare?
Multiply that thought by everyone around you, by all the people that watch us like a television show. Almost none of those stares equate into greetings or new acquaintances. We have become so used to it that we often forget how many people stop to watch. When Ollie was first learning to use his white cane, it was a concern. He would feel afraid to go out in public because people didn’t know how to interact with him. We hoped that as he and the public got used to it that things would calm down. We had hoped that as he matured and grew people would understand and move out of his way, or stop staring.
This past week Oliver asked me: “am I different” “am I special” “why.” It was spawned from a new beloved Disney Halloween Special “Spookly The Square Pumpkin.” Oliver has watched this movie every day and really relates to it. It is heartbreaking to watch him watch it. There’s even a song about how easy it would be to fit in if Spookly looked like the other pumpkins.
Almost everyone struggles with how to fit in or their looks. It’s a natural stage of adolescence. But it’s absolutely not a part of childhood. My not even 4 year old knows that he is different and that people stare. He has been overwhelmed with it more recently. He doesn’t want to leave the house or be around others outside of school. He seems to be more interested in the differences.
As an adult I’m sure that when you watch that cute little boy with the cane you’re not trying to be malicious. I’m sure that you are just curious. But next time you watch a child, consider the weight of your stare. Try saying hello and treating him as you would any other person you were interested in or curious about. Your stare may be curious but your silence is not. He is not a show but a little boy that feels all the ways he is different. Right now I can admit I’m not sure how to help other than to show him The National Organization Of Albinism and Hypopigmentation, to see other children like him.
There are so many moments as a parent that you feel helpless and out of your depth. Special needs parenting just seems to increase the frequency of those feelings. I want to shield him from it but also know he should be prepared. I want to change the public to be more inviting but lack the means. This blog affords me the ability to say from one mom to another, please don’t stare at my child. Regardless of your intent, please don’t stare at my little boy who is just trying to fit in.
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