I saw you in the Tupperware aisle and couldn’t stop smiling at your daughter sitting in the shopping cart. Her hair was pulled back into braids, and I smiled as her braids twirled from side to side as she looked around, taking in the wonder of the world around her. You were looking at lunch boxes, likely planning out your meals for the week and hoping your child did not place another Frozen-themed item into your cart. But your daughter kept sneaking glances at me, and I smiled at her, taking note of the curiosity in her eyes.
Your daughter kept looking at me, and I remained patient, waiting for her question. She began to speak, but I didn’t hear what she said.
“What?” I asked her.
“Nothing,” you said, hushing her.
As you hurriedly walked away, your daughter’s eyes drifted back my direction, but I didn’t call after you…even though I wanted to. I didn’t have the chance to tell you that this kind of situation has happened more times than I can count, and that I am not embarrassed or hurt.
Instead, I wish you would have allowed your daughter to ask me about my disability. I wish you would have thought about the importance of teaching your child that differences are okay, and that just because I have a disability doesn’t mean she should be afraid to approach me and talk to me. What most people don’t realize is that I love to talk about my Cerebral Palsy. I love to answer questions to allow children and adults to better understand what my life is like. I love to have the opportunity to explain my perspective on the world.
I am not the first person your daughter will meet who is different. Though you may have felt uncomfortable because your daughter tried to initiate a conversation with me, don’t be. You are her role model. If you feel uncomfortable around me or instinctively want to walk the other direction, so will she. And don’t be worried about saying the wrong thing or that she might. The only wrong thing is not saying anything at all.
Allow your daughter to talk with me and ask me anything under the sun. Allow her to learn that differences are unique and something to be proud of. Give her this moment, even though you may have so many other things on your mind. I’ll be glad to talk with her for as long as she wants. I’ll tell her that this was the way that I was born, but that I would not change it for anything. I’ll tell her that I do things differently, but that’s okay. I’ll tell her normal is just a setting on a washing machine.
Allow her curiosity to bloom and her questions to flow freely, because guess what? She’s learning the most important lesson of all: inclusion.
10 thoughts on “To the woman at Target whose daughter was curious about my Cerebral Palsy”
Thanks for this post, Amelia. My sister has CP, and I’ve noticed that some of the least helpful responses have stemmed from embarrassment and inhibition.
Thanks, Emma! Feel free to share it with others who you think might benefit. Awareness is key.
Amelia, this post is wonderful! I admire you so much :). As I think I may have told you in the past, my oldest son has epilepsy, and although he is controlled by medication we knew that we wouldn’t always be with him when he had a seizure. So, right from the beginning we taught him to be very open about it and let people know so that they could understand and know what to do if it happened. We didn’t want him to be embarrassed or hide it but rather taught him that everyone has some condition at some point in their lives to deal with and it doesn’t make them abnormal. We are all different but still the same, you know what I mean?
Thank you so much for the support! I think you may have told me about your son previously, but thank you for the reminder. It is refreshing to hear that there are parents out there who are actually appropriately teaching their children about the beauty of differences.
Oh, Amelia! What wonderful sentiments. My son gets his fair share of curious stares – also cerebral palsy. He’s non-verbal and uses a computer/comm device and it takes him a while to type his thoughts out. Unfortunately, people are in such a hurry they often don’t stick around to “hear” what he has to say. Children are so curious and eager to learn, but like you wrote, they get shushed and scurried away. Thanks for the great post.
Dana, thank you for your kind words. You are right about the fact that so much of the time people do not stick around to hear our perspective. However, another important piece is encouraging parents of children with disabilities to encourage others to ask questions and interact, especially in situations like your son’s.
This post was a joy to read. Thank you for taking the time to write it.
Before my daughter came along, I unfortunately would have been one of those parents that would have shushed my son and scurried away. I didn’t understand, and I thought such stares/questions would be a bother. My daughter has taught me otherwise. Now I’m the one trying to engage others, often children, when they have questions concerning the braces she wears or the walker she uses. I love to see them relax and smile as they realize that although different, my daughter is still very much just like them.
It’s so important to help children see that children with disabilities are just like them in so many ways! Thanks for reading. Keep on working to engage others. You are doing a wonderful job as your daughter’s advocate!
Amelia, first of all, I LOVE your blog. You’re spot on about so many things…. I’ve experienced this same thing so many times, and you’re right: asking is so much better than simply stating or just walking away. For a couple years, those states cut me like a knife and made me insecure to go out in public. It took lots of love and encouragement to overcome it, but I finally have! Thank you so much for sharing something so true in such an elegant and beautiful way!
Also, I was wondering, would you mind checking out my blog? It’s about my experiences with CP and also things I love, like the University of Florida, music, and writing! It’s robyn1513.wordpress.com 🙂 Thank you!! I would appreciate it so much!