I See You Looking at My Child
I see you looking at my little girl.
I see you looking at her, and then looking at me as I’m looking at you looking at her.
Then you quickly look away but steal another look at her.
And at me.
What do you see when you look at her?
Do you see a child who is lying on her back trying to play with toys?
A little girl who is being fed custard that’s going all over her face and clothes?
A child who’s being carried around while we wait for the wheelchair referral for a specialized buggy.
You may be thinking, “I wonder why her mum doesn’t help her sit up.”
“How can she let her make such a mess? Why doesn’t she wipe her face?”
“Why is she eating custard and not a proper meal?”
“Why is she being carried around? I wonder why she isn’t walking.”
“Poor girl. Poor family.”
Look a bit closer.
What do you really see?
I’ll tell you what I see.
A child who has had to learn the hard way, learn to let all the other kids push past her, knock into her, step on her fingers.
A child whose neural pathways are carrying scrambled messages from her brain to her arms, hands and legs.
A child who has tolerated nearly a year of feeding therapy. She eats orally even though the muscles in her mouth don’t work properly.
A child who is carried even though she wants to be off, exploring the world like her twin.
I don’t mind you looking.
I don’t mind you staring.
I don’t mind you nudging your mate and talking.
I don’t even mind what you are thinking.
I did mind, for a long time, and it did me no good.
I have now reached a place where I can happily look at you looking at my daughter, and look you in the eye, and smile.
Because she’s mine.
She’s all mine. I get to take her home and watch her grow, develop and flourish.
It’s hard not to look, it’s hard not to judge, and it’s hard not to wonder.
But it is easy to show empathy and compassion.
If you are curious – talk to me!
If you are offended – don’t look!
You make me feel empowered.
I simply feel proud.
Proud to know the real story and the real girl and be a part of her journey.
I am also aware that for every insensitive and unkind person, there are dozens who are genuinely interested, impressed, endeared and enamored.
Those who can see through the physical restrictions, the specialist equipment, the constant therapy appointments and delayed speech, and see the amazing little girl underneath.
On the days I strike up conversations with these people, it really makes my day.
I take comfort in the fact that we have made a tiny yet significant impact on their lives.
I wish more people could be more accepting of the multi-dimensional world around them.
These days it seems it is more socially acceptable to be cold, quiet and vapid than to be sensitive, open and amicable.
So, next time you steal a look at her, then back at me, and then sheepishly look away, perhaps go home and look in the mirror.
What do you see?
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Thinkstock photo by frankie fotografie