Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Eyes

By now I should be immune to the stares when Ashley and I are out in public. Ashley's left eye is very, very small and is a strange, cloudy green color. When I first adopted her, I would get upset when people stared at her. Sometimes people would even ask what was wrong with her, and that would make me even angrier. But, over the last 11 years, I have learned to make the best of those situations by explaining how Ashley was just like everyone else except for a few vision and hearing problems. I tried to view each question as an educational opportunity, a way to help people accept Ashley. I wasn't always successful, but there were times I was. But the staring still bothers me, especially the staring without any questions asked.

Yesterday, all the kids, Amy and I had lunch at a local restaurant. Ashley loves to go out to eat, and since our winter vacation was drawing to a close, we decided to celebrate. As we entered the restaurant, we were ushered to a large booth that was connected to another large booth. There was a short panel between the two booths, but it didn't afford much privacy. From the moment we arrived at the booth, an older woman in the adjoining booth stared unabashedly at Ashley. This older woman was having lunch with an equally-aged friend and two children who appeared to be someone's grandchildren. I could almost read the thought bubble over the women's heads - "I'm so glad my grandchildren aren't like that."

Sometimes I will force the issue and ask the staring person if they have any questions I can answer. That will usually stop the staring or open a positive dialogue. But I decided not to do that this time. I wanted our lunch to be a family affair without the intrusion of others. But I don'tknow if that was the right decision because I was uncomfortable during the entire lunch.

I tried my best to make the lunch a positive experience for my family. The wait staff person helped tremendously by assisting with all the special food requests for Ashley. And, it was so noisy in the restaurant that Ashley's happy noises didn't bother anyone. However, I hardly remember what I ate because I was so obsessed with the staring woman.

Why do I still let people's staring get to me? Shouldn't I have been able to move past all that by now? Does anyone have any strategies for dealing with the staring and comments? I haven't made any New Year's resolutions yet, but if I do, I would like to resolve to handle situations like yesterday's lunch in a more positive way.


Casdok said...

I feel like you, i would rather people ask questions so i can answer rather than the stares and the wispers (rather loud ones at that!)
It depends on the day how i react (if i do) and indeed how i feel. On the whole it is a lot easier and i do expect it. But sometimes, just sometimes it really gets to me.

Casdok said...

PS! So to answer your question...sorry no i dont!!
Hope someone else does, will be interesting!

MMC said...

I really think it does depend on the day, how much mental energy you have to deal with it. Ideally, I think we might always say something... open that positive dialogue, educate. But let's get real ... sometimes, it's just not meant to be. Sometimes you just have to cocoon, which it sounds like is what you did. And no matter how many years, no, I'm not sure you ever 'get use to it".

Which reminds me, I once found on the net, long ago, the idea of business cards for our kids. Something with a write-up that you can hand out for moments like this.

On the front it say something positive and friendly like "I see you have noticed Ashley. She is a wonderful [age] girl. Let us tell you some more about her." And then on the back some info on their condition. I always thought that was kind of cool, not that I ever did anything about it.

Ashley's Mom said...

MMC, the cards are an interesting idea. I may have to consider that...


Karen said...

We're a family of five with hearing aids and we sign so we often get stared at in restaurants and everywhere else. I've gotten to the point where I don't even notice it anymore.

When the kids were little, people used to feel free to come up to me and ask questions. Now that the kids are bigger, they stare and don't ask. I've learned that it's THEIR issue to deal with, not ours...

Penny L. Richards said...

I'm not nice--I stare right back, a grand, unabashed, laser-focus staring, until they notice me and realize they're doing the same thing. Then I smile and nod a silent "yeah, I noticed, and yeah, you should stop that, now."

But remember it's a cultural thing, too. Last summer we went to Italy with the kids, and saw a lot of really frank staring--one woman in Naples stopped mid-sentence and did a full 180 head swivel to follow us down the sidewalk. Then, aha, it dawned on me--they weren't just staring at Jake or his wheelchair; they were also staring at a DAD taking care of his kid, because Peter was usually pushing the Convaid while I held our daughter's hand. OH! That's different, isn't it?