We went out to dinner last night at a casual, sit-down restaurant. The girls and I grabbed a table while Daddy stood in line to order food. For a solid three minutes, KC, my daughter who has Down syndrome, yelled for “Dadad,” who was standing just around the corner.
Naturally, we gained some attention from diners, but when she stopped using her toddler voice, the attention quickly faded — except for at one nearby table, where a lady sat across from us on the same bench as the young child she was with. The young child hardly noticed us, but the lady couldn’t stop staring.
After some time, it really started bothering me.
I could feel her watching our every move. I’m not talking about the occasional glance and smile as you look off. I’m talking full-on staring in the opposite direction of her young dinner companion. The longer it went on the more I started to feel self-conscious and wondered exactly what was so entertaining that she was willing to ignore the kid with her just so she could stare at us.
I wondered if she was staring because she’d noticed something different about KC. My mind went to those crazy momma places, wondering if this could be what our future looks like. I wondered if KC’s calling for Dad was more disruptive or out of the ordinary than I realized. I even wondered if people are so ridiculous that a grown adult with a child of their own could be so distracted by KC’s presence that she couldn’t function normally at a dinner table.
Clearly, I was beyond annoyed.
I tried to watch her eyes to see what specifically she was looking at. It was impossible to know for sure. I eventually pointed it out to “Dadad,” who confirmed for me she was indeed staring. Then, I decided to try to catch her eyes so I could stare back and give her a moment of the same awkwardness I’d been experiencing from her. (Mature, I know). I eventually moved seats to help one of our girls with her meal, and my focus was able to shift back to the people at the table who actually mattered.
I realized her awkwardness was winning over me, and there’s a real possibility she was just staring me down rather than KC. I’d pushed those thoughts aside, and when we got up to leave the restaurant I realized her table was empty. I hadn’t even noticed her get up.
The last few days my girls have spent a lot of time playing with neighbor friends. As one of our neighbor friend’s little girl ran to embrace KC, or “Cannady,” as she calls her, I realized I have a choice.
I can be the mom who confronts everyone who looks at my daughter(s) the wrong way and give them a piece of my mind, or I can be the mom so caught up in the presence of our family and friends that I don’t even notice those staring eyes.
I can be angry and hurt, or I can be a loving example of how truly typical we are.
Today, I’m thankful for those loved “framily” members who make it such an easy choice — a choice to be present with those I love.
By Joy Parman
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