To the Mom at Target Who Gave Me 'the Look' as My Son Picked Out a Barbie


author's son picking out barbie doll You don’t know me, and I don’t know you. Because you don’t know me, you don’t know about the daily war I wage with my anxiety and that being an anxious person makes me overly aware of my surroundings, usually to a fault. So when I walked past you with my son — who on that morning chose a fuchsia rose headband to wear with his Batman flip flops — as he pulled me towards the Barbie section, I saw you. I saw the look.

Going places with my son can be difficult for me. I panic when I think of the stares and the thoughts people are thinking about him. He, thankfully, does not appear to notice or care. On this particular outing, we were going to buy him a new Barbie with the money he’d saved. Oh, if you could’ve seen the happiness on his face when we arrived at the all pink-purple-and-glitter aisle filled to the brim with beautiful dolls. Pure. Innocent. Joy.

But we passed you with your husband and sons in the aisle filled with trucks and action figures, so you did not get to see that joy. You probably didn’t notice me catch my breath as we approached your family in that aisle, wondering what my reaction would be should you or one of your sons point and laugh. But I noticed you. I saw you.

You looked down at my boy with his pretty headband and beaming blue eyes, and then you looked up at me. Our eyes met, and you smiled. You smiled. And then you looked back at your boys who were staring at my son, and you smiled at them. And so they went back to picking out Hot Wheels, and we went on to find the perfect ballerina Barbie doll.

It was a mom-to-mom high five. No words exchanged, no hand gestures… just a smile and a small reassurance that maybe it’s all going to be all right. Right there in the toy section of Target of all places. So thank you. Thank you for noticing my son and making sure your boys saw that his differences were just fine with you. Thank you for easing my anxiety that morning. Thank you for giving me the look.

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