Thursday, October 29, 2009

A different perspective

As art class was winding down today, it was clear that Will had developed a bad case of ants in her pants. We decided to go to the closest mall to run off some energy before lunch.

She ran. She jumped. She played with some cats at the satellite animal shelter. We tried a misguided trip into the dollar store and she climbed on a bench to touch some fake pumpkins in a mall flower bed.

At some point, Will decided to crawl. I'm not sure whether she was pretending to be a baby (which she loves) or a cat (meow!) or if she was just reacting against my attempts to navigate us towards the exit.

It was gross and unsanitary, but I had a bag full of wipes and hand sanitizer, and since we weren't in a rush I decided to not to make a big deal out of the situation.

I told her she needed to walk, and I would wait for her at the next bench (a few feet away).

She crawled a little more, making doe-eyes at me. She put her head down on her hands and then peeked out at me. Finally she got up and sauntered over, saying she was ready for a smoothie.

An older lady pushing a cart circled us and then stopped in front of me. "Do you need some wet wipes? I have some in my purse."

"No thanks! I have some in my bag too." I thought it was cute, amid all the flu panic, that she was concerned about the state of my daughter's hands.

But the woman kept looking at us, before finally asking "Is she okay?"

I glanced over at Will, now bouncing beside me. "Um, yeah. She's fine."

"Really though. Is she all right? Just energetic? But she's okay?"

I was suddenly very uncomfortable, and took Will's hand. "She's fine."

As we walked away, she continued. "Well, she's just an adorable child!"

I have no idea what the woman was implying. Some sort of delay that would make a toddler act like a baby (or a cat)? Some sort of attention deficit or hyperactivity? Some sort of bad mothering that would allow such terrible behaviour?

When I get compliments on my daughter from perfect strangers, I have to admit that I don't think too much about it. It doesn't seem particularly strange or invasive (except when they ask for her name). Yet I cannot get over the audacity of this woman, that she would feel entitled to ask whether my child was "all right." What if she wasn't, at least according to this person's understanding of "okay"? What must it be like to have a child who is different in a visible way, and have people feel like it's all right to comment on something that is just a part of that child?

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