I See You Staring, and I Understand
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.
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 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.
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.