As Ryan gets older I’ve noticed that there are less smiles and more stares. And it’s so hard as her mother to see this. I mean, I know the day will come. The day when she is no longer the cute baby and she’s just that kid with special needs. But, wait! Don’t you see? She is a cute kid! She’s my cute kid! She’s my cute kid with special needs.
But I know what they’re thinking. How old is she? Why does she have so much hair if she’s so little? She walks funny. Are those braces on her feet? Her eye wanders… is that what the glasses are for? Why can’t she talk? What’s wrong with her?
Walking in the mall tonight was really eye-opening. More so than ever before. We were at the “good” mall and it was crowded. And Ryan loved every minute of it! She thrives on social interaction and was so in her element. She brushed her new little lovie at Build-A-Bear and hugged the shit out of some Minnie Mouse stuff at the Disney store. Then we walked to a restaurant at the opposite end of the mall. As we walked I had to hold Ryan’s hand. She wanted to walk by herself but she’s just so unsteady and there were so many people that I grabbed her hand. Even with that support she walked with her hands in the air, often times above her head, to keep her balance. She practically ricocheted like a pinball off of booths and people as we passed. She jumped a lot and she made all sorts of happy noises. People noticed her. Some of them smiled but most of them just stared. For some reason, I just couldn’t believe it. It hurt my heart.
The thing is, it totally shouldn’t hurt my heart. I, myself, am an admitted starer. I do it out of curiosity, not malice. But people were staring at my baby and tonight I didn’t care why. Tiger mama started to growl a little and stared right back.
What I need to remember in instances like these are that these people are just like me. They are curious. We are just strangers passing each other in a mall, crossing each other’s paths for mere seconds in our lives. What matters most are the real interactions that Ryan will have with others and how they treat her. Like when she she bumped into an older gentleman in line at Chipotle the other day. I apologized and Ryan looked up at him and smiled. And when he smiled back at us Ryan lifted her little fist to give him the rock. He obliged and it made her giggle. Or at the last infusion when we were packed into a full elevator. Ryan looked at each person, all of them busy or preoccupied with their own lives, and waved at each one. By the time we went up 5 flights, Ryan was blowing kisses and every single person was smiling and talking and blowing kisses right back.
She wins them over. Every time.