No whats

by Jen Reeves on January 25, 2012 · 5 comments

in 2012, Stares, Swimming

20120125-230314.jpgIt really seems like the only thing I talk about is swimming but I have a little story that I think is worth sharing.

Our community has a really cool indoor pool. When the kids were younger, we were members of the community recreation center that includes the cool pool. I moved to a different gym and stopped taking the kids there. I actually started avoiding that pool like the plague because it was one of the few locations in town were I had a really consistent time dealing with obnoxious questions about Jordan’s limb difference. I’m totally cool with questions. I don’t like people who follow me around with my child just to stare and they don’t leave after I’ve asked them to either play with my child or leave. Staring and following isn’t cool. That happened all the time when Jordan was younger.

Today was an early release day for the kids and their after school program scheduled a trip to this indoor community pool. I was okay with it but I also expected Jordan to come back with stories of annoying kids (or possibly adults. It’s happened.)

I asked her if she had fun. I didn’t even prompt her to see if there were annoyances. That’s when she said:

“I had fun! Everyone left me alone. I never had to say ‘WHAT!'”

Apparently saying “WHAT” is what Jordan says if a child walks up to her and just stares. I didn’t know that. But she told me today that people who don’t ask questions and stare with leave her feeling exasperated. Today’s trip to the pool made her feel just like any other kid. I’ve never talked to her before about this perspective and heard her experiences come out without prompting. She told me she felt good and didn’t feel like anyone was looking at her. Then she laughed and mentioned how she’d never look around to check.

She had no “whats” today and got to feel like any other kid… Because that’s what she is!

And our conversation tonight opened me up to a very mature side of my little six year old. Her perspective of being in the public is a level of awareness I know I didn’t have at her age.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

John January 26, 2012 at 7:20 am

Awesome post! Jordan is such a star!

Bess, Mom of Oliver January 26, 2012 at 8:56 am

I love this. I can’ just imagine her saying “What!” I think that I’d have the same reaction if people did this to me! Sometimes if we get some followers at the playground when I take Oliver, I often say, “Can we help you?” Really sweetly with a big smile (even if I feel like doing the opposite), and often they feel embarrassed enough to leave us alone, or brave enough to ask the question.

We were in Walmart one time when (I kid you not) a THIRTEEN year old boy started yelling at Oliver, “He ain’t got no arm! He ain’t got no arm!” I gathered the kids and headed to a different aisle, fuming, of course. But, when I had enough distance from the episode, I realized that my children will be loved and given any opportunity we can give them (and that they earn). But, I felt sorry for that boy, b/c after his outburst his mother yelled at him, “Don’t do that, you STUPID! He cain’t help he ain’t got no arm!” And, then she continued to belittle him until we were out of earshot. Sad.

Jen Lee Reeves January 26, 2012 at 10:13 am

Bess, it’s those unexpected moments like the one you had at Wal-Mart that make it difficult to always react positively. The poor 13 year old missed a chance to learn because his mom didn’t let him. I’ve had so many similar playground experiences! I always offer the child a chance to ask a question after I mention how staring is rude but questions are polite. Most kids can’t get the question out. Depending on his or her age, I’ll ask it for them. Then Jordan and I (if she’s in the mood) explain simply she was born with one hand. I think it’s so interesting to hear how she reacts when I’m not around… I certainly don’t just say “WHAT?” She cracks me up.

Bess, Mom of Oliver January 26, 2012 at 11:07 am

Ah! The liberties of children! I wish I could say, “WHAT?!” sometimes! When Oliver gets a little older, I’m going to relay this reaction to him. He’d get a kick out of it, it’s right up his alley. It sure would break the ice when it comes to having someone stare at him!

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