We are quite the sight to see when we go out in public. Usually, it’s just me and the kids—one harried mother pleading with her kids in a sing-song mom voice, a little boy who is sometimes helpful and sometimes hiding somewhere so he can jump out and scare his sister, and a beautiful little girl with a walker. Apparently, not a lot of people have ever seen a pediatric walker. (I hadn’t, before Gracie.) We get a lot of stares. A LOT. Many people smile at Gracie—walker or not, she’s adorable. Others just stare.
This weekend, we went to the mall. We went to Target, which was not so bad, then we spent some time in the Lego store, which has beautiful wide open spaces and tons of room to maneuver a walker. There were a few people staring, but they were mostly kids. There was even a woman in a wheelchair in the store, so Gracie wasn’t the only person there using an assistive device. No big deal at the Lego store. But then, we went next door to the Carters outlet, and that was a whole different story.
I think it’s especially hard for parents of babies to see a disabled child. After all, every parent wants the world for their child. They don’t want to think that their kid could be—well, less than perfect, or not healthy, or whatever. Anyway, the Carters store was very different than the Lego store. Parents stared, horrified, as Gracie maneuvered her walker through the tight aisles. Gracie, mostly oblivious to the size of her walker and also lacking peripheral vision, frequently runs it into things and people. At the Carters store, she ran into the back of a lady’s shoe in one of the narrow aisles, but instead of being sympathetic or just simply moving out of the way, this lady was clearly irritated. (I get it, I do—no one wants to be pushed around.) Then, as we waited in line for what seemed an eternity, the folks ahead of us turned around and stared. Not kindly, smiling looks, but empty, unsympathetic stares. Perhaps they were bored and just wanted to watch the spectacle.
We are somewhat sheltered in our current situation. Gracie goes to a non-inclusive school and she is a rock star. Everyone loves that mischievous blonde-haired beauty. No one bats an eye at her walker or special gloves or lack of body awareness. She’s doing a lot better than many of her schoolmates and that is all they see. But out in the real world, people aren’t used to disabled kids. People aren’t used to seeing beautiful little girls with walkers and glasses and gloves. People don’t want to see beautiful little girls with walkers and glasses and gloves. It is an uncomfortable reality that most people would like to avoid. But for us, it is our reality and we can’t avoid it.
The kids and I will continue running errands together and making a spectacle while we do. We will continue to face those stares—some kind, some not—as we maneuver through tight aisles and as I try to corral my sometimes wild children. No matter how uncomfortable it can be, we will not avoid anything, because this spectacle is our reality.