I See You Staring, and I Understand

staring
Image via Rachel England

I see you staring.

My kids are super gorgeous, I know. They have those cheesy baby smiles and are a perfect blend of me and my husband — my daughter inheriting my blue eyes and my husband's sandy blonde hair, and my son sporting my dark hair and my husband's deep brown irises.

Their manners are above reproach, as well. That's not to say my daughter's threenager attitude doesn't pop out sometimes or my son's 1-year-old confusion of the world doesn't cause some tantrums, but on the whole, they are happy, sweet kids.

Though, I know you're not staring because they are over-the-top adorable to look at or because you've never seen such darling manners in kids this tiny.

You're looking at my son's tiny hand, aren't you? Or perhaps you see us hooking a tube to a device on his stomach. Or you've noticed how one of his eyes never blinks.

I don't blame you. In fact, I understand. I would have looked, too. Actually, I did look unabashedly and without shame in those early days when it was just me and a tiny newborn in my arms: a very sick little boy and a very scared mommy.

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I stared at his tiny hand, noticing how different it was from his normal-sized hand. How the fingers spread out differently, how the webbing in between the ring and pinky fingers wasn't quite gone. How his pointer finger didn't bend and how his thumb wasn't exactly in the right spot.

I watched him sleep, noticing I could still see his left pupil in the gap between his eyelid and the bottom of his eye. From there, I would move my gaze down to his stomach, twisting his gastric feeding tube button around and around, confused and scared.

It's easy to be scared. Babies are supposed to come out with two fully functioning hands, eyes that close, and mouths that can swallow. Mine didn't, and it was hard, and I stared at him in those early days because I was trying to understand him.

And, eventually, I did understand. I talked to the doctors and asked hundreds and hundreds of questions. I researched every procedure and every diagnosis. I learned so much about these things that were new to me and essential for me to understand. I was his mother. I needed to understand him.

Once I did and became comfortable and even grateful for these differences that make Jack who he is, all my stress and confusion lifted.

So, I understand your stares. He's different, and you have questions.

Ask.

Ask me. Smile at him. Smile at me. Comment on how cute he is or how happy he is. Ask me what the tube is for. Ask me if he'll be able to eat. Rejoice with me when I tell you we are already reducing the amount of times he is fed by the tube each day because he's finally able to eat. Ask me about his hand. Laugh with me when I tell you he ripped out his oxygen tube a million times with it when he was in the hospital and how that is his go-to hand to put his pacifier in his mouth.

Asking questions and getting answers was the best way for me to accept and become comfortable with the aspects of my son that are atypical for other babies. Loving him came easy, but understanding and adapting to his differences wasn't automatic. I needed to make sense of things, and understand it. Just like you.

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All you have to do is ask. I would love to talk about him. He is one of my two greatest accomplishments, and I adore bragging about them.

Don't just stare. Come. Sit. Smile. Ask questions.

What do you think?

I See You Staring, and I Understand

Rachel is a stay-at-home-mom to her 4-year-old daughter, Sydney, and her 18-month-old son, Jackson. Her writing can be found all over the web, mostly detailing her own parenting struggles and triumphs, as well as her life as the military spouse of an active-duty airman. She also writes about her life as as a special needs parent on her blog, Tales From the Plastic Crib, and spends an unnecessary amount of time on Twitter. ... More

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4 comments

  1. Profile photo of chrissy chrissy says:

    I wish more people would just ask instead of staring. It’s nice to have an article expressing it’s ok to ask and be curious. My dad worked at a center that cared for children to adults that had handicaps such as downs. Some were high functioning and could live in remodeled houses with the staff just assisting them others were very physically or mentally handicapped that they I’ve at the center since they needed constant care. My dad took my brother and I to work with him and we attended many of the parties for them. I know they were different but we were around them all the time so it never bothered me. Almost all of them were kind and sweet. Always smiling always happy to see you. It taught me that no matter whats seen as “wrong” they’re still people. I was proud he was my dad. Unlike most of the office staff, besides the nurses ect, he knew most of them by name and always talked to them. I’m trying to teach my boys not to just stare. Go up introduce yourself and make a new friend. If your curious its ok to ask questions. They just have something special about them.

    • Profile photo of Rachel EngelAuthor Rachel Engel says:

      Thank you! My husband has an uncle who lives full-time in a care facility due to a mental handicap, and I know they’ve had problems in the past with employees not treating him right. Your father sounds wonderful, the world needs more people like him!

  2. He’s amazing your a really good mom….I would smile and make contact with him…gb

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