“Jill has a walker now? Bring it with you to the Children’s Museum tomorrow! That will be fun!”
My breath caught in my chest.
Oh. In public? Wow. Okay.
The lump in my throat was immediate.
Not out of shame.
No, no, no.
But that this was a milestone of sorts. The little girl on my hip or in a stroller would be waddling around.
Something we were never sure she would be able to do.
In a bitty metal contraption.
That I knew would elicit stares.
And I wasn’t sure my mama heart was ready for that step in this journey.
But I knew it was coming someday.
I guess I just wanted to be an ostrich. Head in the sand.
Jill’s speech therapist is a sweet girl…albeit young and naive. And I don’t think it occurred to her for one second what she was suggesting.
How a simple comment sent me reeling emotionally.
But I am a big girl.
It was time.
And you know what?
Jill ROCKED it.
She wandered around all over the place. She was so happy. So excited. Having so much fun going where SHE wanted to go.
And I had to rush to the bathroom more than once to cry in a stall.
Cry because I was overwhelmingly PROUD of my girl.
She may as well have just won the Presidency of the United States or a gold medal at the Olympics.
I couldn’t contain my pride and excitement for her.
I wanted to scoop her up and shower her with millions of kisses and throw her in the air telling her how proud of her I was.
Cry because of all the days for our sleepy small town children’s museum to host a field trip for the local elementary school…it was this day. Of course.
And for the first time in this world we gingerly navigate of special needs, her needs were noticeable to the bystander.
And young children pointed. Whispered. Stared.
Carved a large swath for her to walk through.
She would often pause and wave and say hi with a big toothy grin.
Thank the Good Lord none of them laughed. I likely would have been sent to jail.
No, for sure sent to jail.
But really, the kids staring didn’t bother me so much…after all, they are young…they don’t know better.
But you know who DOES know better?
The mama chaperones.
Who would literally stand there and unabashedly STARE at my sweet girl who was working so hard. Who didn’t smile at her. Who didn’t break their steely gaze even when I made eye contact in an attempt to say “Hey. She’s mine. Ease up.”
Another bathroom break for this mama. To compose herself.
Normally I’m not a shy violet. Normally I would have no problem waltzing right up to that lady and sweetly sharing some choice words. Or break the ice. Or ask her if she needed anything. Or…something.
But not today. Today I was too fragile. Today I knew there was no way I could pull that off tactfully. Today there was no way I could do it without bursting into angry tears.
So I hid instead.
In a bitty stall next to a public toilet.
Angry that their mamas didn’t teach them better.
Angry that they needed better manners.
Angry that they didn’t see the beauty I saw.
Angry that all they saw was a metal walker.
And not the incredible strength of my girl.
So, my sweet friends…do me a favor will ya?
Teach your boys and girls.
That it’s okay to smile.
That it’s okay to say hi.
That it’s even okay to ask questions.
Anything is better than staring…anything is better than the awkwardly obvious “trying not to look at all”. You don’t have to ignore either.
Be kind. Be warm. Be loving.
Because a mama might be falling apart inside just a few feet away.
(Coincidentally, my dear friend Lisa wrote a similar post today. Someday I’ll be brave too.)