Saturday, April 20, 2013


Today we were having our regular Saturday lunch at a cafe near our home that makes great fresh food.

We'd just started eating when I heard one of my daughters say: "Stop looking at him!" "Why are you looking at him?" 

"What's your problem?"

It was noisy in the restaurant, so I didn't know if anyone else could hear her.

The person she was speaking to was sitting behind me.

"Is someone looking at Ben?" I asked.

"Yes," she said, eyeballing someone behind me and shaking her head. 

"He won't look away."

I turned around and saw an outdoorsy guy in his late 20s, someone who probably kayaks and shops at MEC.

I turned back.

"Tell him to take a picture next time," I said loudly.

We smiled and resumed eating.

I'm amazed sometimes by how ignorant adults can be, how rude. And it's one thing for us to deal with stigma. But it makes me sad and angry when it touches my kids.


I get it that it is rude for people to stare and that time and time again it becomes something you loathe. But what is wrong with a person perhaps being caught off guard and looking ant trying to figure out or grasp in their own might what is going on in your world. My oldest daughter and I made a trip to Lowe's recently and we asked an associate for help. A man with a very large growth hanging from his ear. As an adult it took me off guard by being 37 was not able to show it. My 7 year old may or may not have been caught with her mouth gaping. The man was completely gracious and he stopped talking to me looked her in the eye and every so kindly said "it's okay you can look at it, it's from a motorcycle accident I had and from multiple surgeried I had to have on this side of my face. In fact I am having another to make this smaller next week. You can touch it if you want, my daughter does". He said all of this in his complete confidence and a great smile on his face. My daughter shook her head and said no she did not want to touch it and he and I chuckled. He then went about his job of showing us to the item we needed. This was such a huge lesson for me and I was so grateful to him for the lesson he taught my daughter. She has a younger sister with Ds and will face this kind of thing time and time again. I hope she learned to be gracious from this man.

Hi Ckbrylliant :

Thanks for your message.

I don't think there's anything wrong with someone looking at my son, or asking questions.

But when an adult gapes to the point that my 16-year-old daughter feels uncomfortable and needs to tell this man to stop repeatedly and our happy Saturday lunch gets disrupted, I'm not in a mood to educate. All I wanted to do was help my daughter feel better by making a joke and putting this guy in his place.

I was proud of my daughter. I don't expect her, at her age, to be "gracious" to people who should know better.

Yes, we need to help people feel at ease, and what the man in the Lowe's did was great. But I wonder if the man would have had the same reaction if an adult came and stared to the point that it was really uncomfortable, or said something derogatory.

My children have seen me explain why Ben wears hearing aids, or why he uses sign language, or why he's so tiny or why he looks different or a million other "whys" over the years. Usually I give people the benefit of the doubt. But every once in a while I'm not in the mood to educate. Sometimes I just want to enjoy a lunch with my family.

Definitely not judging you or your daughter as I have not always been gracious myself. Just sharing the perspective of this man, who has to live with the stares. It was a reminder to me as well to be more gracious. BTW I can't believe all my spelling errors in the first post :)

There are so many versions of this story and so many good and bad intentions in people who stare at our children! It's a fact that some people stare in the way that children do - they just stare and stare with no comprehension that it is rude to do so! In those cases, I look hard at the person and say, "May I help you? You were staring at my family." If a person whom I sense to have good intentions (or a child or a person with a cognitive disability) stares at Nick, I will say something like, "Oh I bet you're wondering about my son's cool wheelchair. You noticed he's got the Ottawa Sens colours?" or something like that. Louise, well done to your strong and loyal daughter for being a great advocate for her brother!!! :)

HI Ckbrylliant -- I know you weren't judging me!

Most times I can respond in a positive way.

I guess it was just something about how much it upset my daughter, something I haven't seen before, that got to me.

Also, I've now noted in the story that it was loud in the restaurant, so I didn't know whether anyone could hear what she was saying (she was looking at this person, but I don't know if he could hear what she was saying).

Thanks for sharing! Hope we get to hear more about your daughters.

Hi Donna -- Thanks for your message!

Sometimes I just wish it didn't always have to be us being the mature ones, the educators, turning the situation around.

However, we go to this same restaurant every weekend, and other people have expressed interest in Ben, but in a kind way. So this certainly isn't the only response.

Not having been there, only you can say whether this man was staring rudely or in a way that seemed hurtful. Obviously your daughter was uncomfortable, so you did the right thing to make her feel better - and yay for her for being able to speak up! However, like ckbrylliant, I want to offer another perspective. Sometimes *I* am the one looking - I hope not staring rudely! - because I see another child with Down syndrome and I want to make a connection with that parent, or more often because I see an adult with Down syndrome working at a job and I want to study him or her - again, I hope not rudely - because I am wondering and projecting into the future - will my son be able to do that someday? what are the skills involved, what can I do now to help him be able to do those things in adulthood? We are not always in a place where I can ask them questions or interrupt their work to make a personal connection, so I just try to observe as best I can without making anyone uncomfortable. As I usually have Paul with me, I hope people can figure out my interest pretty quickly and if I step over the line I hope someone will say as that isn't my intention at all.

And as long as I am here, may I say thank you for this excellent resource. I always learn something or am drawn to think more deeply about something from what I read here. My husband has gotten tired of me forwarding him messages to "read this!" and has subscribed himself :-D

Hi Beth -- Thanks for your message! I welcome when we're out and a parent is interested in my son because they have a child with a disability. Usually you can feel that person's intentions are good (even if they don't speak) because the person is open and receptive and smiles. That wasn't the case here. But I think it's really important what you and ckbrylliant point out -- which is that we never really know why someone is interested in our kid.

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