Be Kind. Always.

“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.

But also…

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 adults.

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.)


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I'm a mom to four. A wife to one. I believe in story. I love telling you about mine and would love to hear yours. There's really no sense in wasting our suffering and not sharing in each other's joy. We're all in this together...even if it doesn't always feel like it.

Latest posts by jeannett (see all)


  1. 1

    This broke my heart, melted my heart and uplifted my heart all in one post. Thank you for sharing! :o)
    Lissa´s last blog post ..A Parent’s Prayer

  2. 2

    Usually we get surrounded at schools and stuff, and all the kids ask questions and we love it. My typical kids love to “show off” their sister! What I don’t love is the adults “shushing” the kids instead of letting them be kids!
    Jenny´s last blog post ..I must be losing my sense of humor

  3. 3

    i hope i have taught my children well…. but your words bring to mind that it’s never wrong to remind them! i’m so sorry you found yourself crying in the bathroom!!!
    beth lehman´s last blog post ..241 Tote

  4. 4

    She truly looks SO happy! People can be so rude, and those mama chaperons? They should be ASHAMED of themselves. Seriously. That could easily be their child and they wouldn’t want you to stare. Would a smile have killed them?? Just a smile….
    Heather´s last blog post ..Weekend Update (possible photo overload)

  5. 5

    such a sweet picture and a great reminder. love this post. I’m so sorry you had that experience but I’m so glal you shared…I’m hoping to raise sweet, considerate boys who look past differences!
    sara´s last blog post ..Happy Father’s day!

  6. 6

    Oh, Jeannett. Sigh. I really believe that part of the whole thing is that people can’t FATHOM having a child with any sort of need (ironic since ALL kids, and human beings for that matter, have needs!) I have, for example, occasionally had people act like they feel SORRY for my daughters, and it is so frustrating. I want to say, my girls are awesome! They take a little longer to do things, and some things they may never do, but do you see how they smile so big and are so, so happy? They like going to the park and playing and laughing and eating just like anybody else.

    Anyway, Jilly’s walker is AWEsome. Oh how I would have loved to see her tearing all over the museum in it. My kids would have thought it was super cool too. And would not have batted an eye, since they are accustomed to seeing Tigist using one of our IKEA stools as a walker on a regular basis. :)
    Brianna´s last blog post ..7 Quick Takes through InstaFriday #2

  7. 7

    Wow, this post was an emotional rollercoaster. SO proud of Jill! (She does look like she is rocking it!! ) And proud of you for letting yourself FEEL it, the good and the bad. And also, for staying out of prison.
    One thing that we have taken away from our journey w/ my Sophie’s delays is that she and I are both comfortable around kids with special needs and their parents. I am so thankful for that. We need to get the boys in our family up to speed on that though.
    Jenny from Mommin’ It Up´s last blog post ..Pin for the Wednesdays: DIY Teacher Gift or Party Favor

  8. 8

    Look at that sweet girl. You’re doing good by your family, Jeannett. I’m proud of you and proud of them. After all these years, it’s amazing people still can’t look past the metal to the sweet girl who is doing something we take for granted, like you said, especially the adults. I hope things get better as you continue to take Jill out into the world and that people will see HER. love and hugs
    Robbin´s last blog post ..Sunday Hope

  9. 9

    darling little girlfriend! love you so much xox
    hannah singer´s last blog post ..the fingerpost shop {giveaway!}

  10. 10

    one day at school a little kid asked my daughter what was wrong with her legs… the mother, i could tell, was so embarrassed… i on the other hand was thankful for the child that thought it better to ask then to just make fun of or ignore my sweetie…
    Trish´s last blog post’s been awhile!

    • 11

      I agree. Ignoring it…particularly when accompanied by that really obvious “I’m trying not to look” look is almost worse. No one wants to feel invisible.

  11. 12

    You know what I thought when I saw this picture?

    She looks so grown up! & big! & brave! & excited!

    Nothing can contain that girl.

    Rude asshats suck.
    Beth Anne´s last blog post ..File that under things that are NOT OKAY.

  12. 13

    I don’t know, this is even better than the olympics.

    Might need a bit of a cry right now too.

  13. 14

    This post is beautiful and sad all in one. I am so happy for your big girl. So happy that she had a great time at the Children’s Museum and that she ROCKED it. I am sad that you had to hide in the bathroom to keep from telling those rude mothers off. I am a special needs teacher and I always feel that protective need of a momma when I am with my students in public as well. I dont know if I would have been able to hold back. Good for you! I’m so glad your sweet girl wasnt bothered by it at all thats the way it should be and I’m also glad the children were sweet also.

    PS: I’m going to share your post with my FB readers :) Hope you dont mind
    lauren@Warm&Fuzzy´s last blog post ..I Thought You Should Know- Pink vs Blue is really no contest

  14. 15
    Denissa says:

    She looks SO happy and proud! I was crying just looking at the pic and imagining your feelings. I don’t understand how adults can act worse than kids sometimes..mind baffling. I don’t know if thankful is the right word to use or not, but we have a few kids with special needs at our church. So my boys are able to see them and realize that we are all created different by Him.

  15. 16

    When Blake first got his AFO’s I felt the exact same way. Lots of stares and questions. I actually didn’t mind the questions, but the stares bothered me too. At least if you want to look…smile. But not a sympathetic smile. Smile a happy smile. A ‘I’m inspired by you smile!’ I remember it bothered Dave more than me though. He wanted to get a hat that said…’what the F are you looking at?’ I told him that might be kind of harsh…especially since we aren’t a swearing family! Then when he got his metal walker….all those feeling multiplied. But instead of stares we got comments like….’OMGosh that is so cute. What a great idea to help him learn to walk.’ And while I had to admit the tiny thing was cute…all I wanted to scream was…they aren’t so cute in big boy size. Or…it’s not to help him learn…he NEEDS it.’ And often while I was handling a child that couldn’t walk on his own, a diaper bag and a walker…..I would just want to burst out crying because I just didn’t have another hand to help. I remember one day thinking while carrying all of it…why did I even get dressed. With all these accessories I shouldn’t have even bothered!! Hang in there momma….you are doing GREAT things.

    I truly believe God put you up on his lap and said…’I’m sending you a special one. She will need a brave mommy, a loving mommy, a patient mommy and you raised your hand and said ‘I’ll do it!’ HE knew what HE was doing. Now we just have to trust HIM!

  16. 18

    The baby books don’t tell you that it’s likely you’ll feel compelled to go UFC on women and children sometimes.

  17. 20

    Mean people stink! I’m sorry that there was a mean grown up there. But the story about your little one, it brought tears to my eyes. That she is doing so well and that you are so amazed and proud of her. I have a daughter that is developmentally delayed and acted “odd” for many years. She is now 12 and an amazing, beatutiful, smart girl that I am so proud of too. It’s a great feeling after all the worrying we do as mommas!
    laura b´s last blog post ..My Top 5 Blogs I Love to Read

  18. 21

    Yes, I love how your post and Lisa’s echo each other! I just wish they could have heard your words, “something we were never sure she would be able to do.” Because she can! And I want to go up to them and say “I know! It’s amazing, right? She’s got this!”

    Yay Jilly! You are showing the world how! You go ahead and keep on surpassing expectations! And have fun while you’re doing it!

    So proud of all of you!

  19. 22

    You were so brave. That had to have been hard, and yet your little one did so well. So did you.
    Anne @ anne b. good´s last blog post ..Hooray! I’m Depressed… and That’s Valid! – or – Parenting Lessons From Marriage Counselling, Part 2

  20. 23

    I just wanted to say thank you for posting this! I have a brother with special needs and he was in a wheelchair for a good bit of his childhood. I can remember the stares and the whispers and remember thinking the same thing….how if these people only knew how strong and wonderful he was. Thankfully, he always seemed to have that same smile and determination that your Jill carries with her. I know how much it hurt to watch as a sibling, I cannot imagine watching as a Mother. Thank you again!!! : )

  21. 24

    you and Jilly taught me that there are people behind the metal contraptions. because, as embarrassing as this is, i never really thought about it. and i tried so hard not to stare that i know it was just painfully obvious. so recently when i was walking down the street and saw a young boy struggling with his walker, being encouraged by his mom, i thought “how brave”. i smiled at the mom, a big huge smile. and i smiled at her son, a big, you-can-do-it smile. i don’t know if it made a difference to them. but it made a difference to me.

  22. 26

    You ARE brave, Momma. I remember how awkward it can be to have your baby out in public with their walker. I promise it gets easier.
    There was one time at Jaycie’s gymnastics practice when I was sitting in the viewing area and had to do Brock’s tube feeds. It didn’t bother me to do it in public and I was used to getting stares…but THIS time the syringe slipped out of the tube and formula was POURING out on to the floor before I could stop it. So so SO! many people just sat and gaped at me. FINALLY one sweet woman asked if she could get me some paper towels. Uh…yes please!
    So I hear you. I wish people were kind.

    • 27

      i think people are often so shocked by it all.
      or still processing what they would do if it were them.
      or maybe not wanting to make a scene and make you feel like a charity case.
      but i feel like this post needs a follow up, don’t you?
      cool. why don’t you write that for me?

  23. 28

    Oh, sweet Jeanett! I was so excited when I saw that picture of your Jill walking around on her own! I am so sad that other people didn’t see the triumph behind her ability to move about on her own. Just keep loving and encouraging her–I have no doubt that together, you’ll move mountains!
    Vicki´s last blog post ..Why Summer is Awesome//An Incomplete List

  24. 29

    Ding, dang, gosh darn it I hate that moment.
    I remember it all too well.
    Reading this just took me back to how I felt when Ella ventured out in her walker.
    Most kids thought it was cool, but the adults. The adults!
    Phooy, poo, yucky.
    Okay, now that I’ve expounded all of my mommy bad words, I just want to say that if I could meet up with you for coffee today I would. And I’d even spring for dessert for both of us!
    Kimberlee Jost´s last blog post ..Ella’s Birthday.

  25. 30

    I just found your blog, and I must say I had no idea you had a child with special needs. When I saw the picture I audibly said “awww” because she is so darn cute! I have a brother with special needs and so I know some of what you are feeling. I will say, good for you for taking her out! She has every right to enjoy the Childrens Museum! And while the negative feelings are there, be proud of your strong baby!
    Katie´s last blog post ..Soaked and Hope

  26. 31

    I’m so proud of Jill! She is going to grow so much being able to move independently. We are still waiting for a walker for my little guy (21 months). His is going to be slightly more complicated since he does not know how to hold on with 2 hands (hence he’ll need a chest harness). I can only imagine the looks we are going to get. Oh well. I’m sure I’ll be feeling all the same emotions that you did. Thanks for sharing.

    • 32

      it’s gonna be hard. not gonna lie.
      but you know what?
      it’s still beautiful and lovely.
      and you’ll get through it.
      pinky swear.

  27. 33

    Jill looks like a doll walking around! I’m sorry that anything was a distraction of the joy of her new freedom.
    Pam´s last blog post ..Inspiration: Part I

  28. 34
    Rosie Segal says:

    Ok J-Been there. Done that. Reading your blog today sent me back 13! years when my little Sarah was fitted for her hearing aides. And then going to the YMCA for swim lessons with the older three kids. I was a wreck. My perfect baby (albiet with a hearing loss) had her “coming out” that day. Then the rudest West LA mom comes up to me and loudly SCREAMS….”OH MY GOD! What’s wrong with your daughter?” Fortunately my friend was there to wield her sword of protection over me. I thought I would kill her.. Flash forward to new schools….and jr. high…Yikes! Adults don’t know how to behave….Kids are usually just inquisitive not trying to be MEAN (until jr. high, again)…So grow some armour…greet the stares with patience….and if they don’t get it…then OH WELL. You can’t control everything. (at least you can block MEAN GIRLS from instagram and facebook who bag on your kids)

    • 35

      that lady is gross.
      i kinda want to go all kung fu on her right now.
      because your sarah is too cute.
      and you’re a good mama.
      so she can pack sand.

  29. 36

    Oh, I know the feeling of wanting to protect your child from the world. It is such a hard experience as a mom. I’d be in the stall too. The world seems like a big, scary place in those moments and you let your mind wander to what the future holds. I love that your girl just did it and was so able to just get around! Yay for her! What a sweet little inspiration she is! Wish I could give her an encouraging smile. Thanks for writing that “ignoring” or trying to not stare isn’t the way to go either. I know I encourage my kids not to stare because I always want people to feel that they are just like anyone else and deserve privacy but didn’t think about what signal that gives off.
    Carolyn´s last blog post ..One of My Favorite Things

  30. 37

    You are brave friend! You are awesome and amazing and real.

    You were out there doing it, living it and letting Jilly rock it. And sometimes it sucks–but you did it. I have plenty of days where I fall into a heap on the bed and sob.

    I think one difference between Jill and David is that david’s missing fingers forced me very early on to accept that he would always stand out, always be noticed, always be stared out. Jill doesn’t stand out the same way, so your process will be different.

    Last night there was a little girl at olive garden standing in front of David and staring for a good 2 minutes. It was awkward but hey, he’s got 7 fingers–so she was fascinated.

    Anyway, you are a fabulous mama. I love you so much.

    • 38

      It’s totally true.
      For the last (almost) three years, it was all “invisible” to the average person. Especially since she’s just so bitty…it doesn’t seem weird to see me carrying her. You don’t know there is anything different when she’s just sitting in the Target cart. So I’ve been able to avoid/prolong the more public journey of special needs…which is good in some ways but hard in others. Because now it’s this “thing”.
      Love you too friend!

  31. 39

    I am ‘that’ nut job who will stare you down like a dog on a bone in situations like that. It could be because of my job investigating dependent adult abuse, or it could be from being the big sis to two mentally ill, developmentally delayed siblings whose big sis opened cans of whup ass on bullies. Either way, you’ve got restraint I don’t dream of having. I admire that about you.

    Way to rock it, Jilly!


  32. 41

    YAY for Jill! I bet she was adorable zipping around all by herself!
    kodie´s last blog post ..The Latest In Curtain News…

  33. 42

    Oh girlfriend, Jilly was rockin it today! Think of it as a bunch of bling! ;)

    I know what you mean by people staring. It bugs me.
    Kara´s last blog post ..Evan’s 2nd Birthday Week

  34. 44

    I just started reading your blog recently, but I had to comment about this…I guess as a mom it irritates me. Adults staring and not smiling? That is ridiculous. How could you see that amount of courage and perseverance in such a small package and not be in awe? I have always told my daughter to look at and smile when she sees someone who is disabled. Not to gawk and not to act like they are invisible because they are people just like her. Our nephew was born in March, had a very rough start to life and the thought of someone doing that to him breaks my heart.

  35. 45

    Thank you for your honesty. I have many friends with special needs children and love the bravery with which they face each day and the strength that their families have. I hope that people will get to know that you and your daughter are exceptional people and you are the same inside as anyone else – with feelings. May God bless and strengthen you!
    Aime´s last blog post ..Welcome!

  36. 46

    Beautiful beautiful post. I carried thinking how happy she must have been strolling around. Band for shame to the staring teachers. Not even a kind grin? I think I would have stopped and asked her name, her age, and I would not be able to stop grinning. How could you not? What a beautiful girl she is!
    Heidi @ Buttons and Butterflies´s last blog post ..Quilt Contest: Patchwork Heart Pillow

  37. 47

    I don’t think I have commented before but have read your blog for a year or so now. My son also has epilepsy and some low muscle tone so does all of the therapies (OT,PT,ST). You are such a great writer and I so relate and identify with what you write. Thanks for giving such a voice to special needs. I am celebrating the victories you feel for Jill with you and understanding your heartbreak as others don’t understand and realize their in-sensitivities. Many blessings to you as you love on your kids so well!

  38. 48

    love you jeannett.
    last week at a restaurant a man that was my age was in a wheelchair that was pushed by his mom. he was paralyzed from the neck down. they waited for a table at this busy restaurant and while we waited he had to lay his wheelchair all the way back so his legs were up. and then his later the opposite and leaned forward and his mother leaned him forward and was rubbing his back as a therapy of some sort. i was a wreck!! i started crying because it was absolutely beautiful. yes he has this huge wheelchair and obviously lots of health issues but he loves to eat italian just like me. and the amount of work it was just to be there for them. she was so loving to him. it was beautiful. my mama heart was aching for her for them just trying to go out for dinner. i was proud of her. what a strong woman.
    you are too.
    you really are.
    love you.

  39. 49

    When Isaac got his wheels a couple of months ago, it was like he had a new lease on life. Because of my medical conditions I wasn’t able to carry him for any length of time, so if we went out anywhere, he’d end up in the push chair. I know he hated it, but it was a matter of doing what I needed to do.
    I think that the first time we went to the mall with his walker, I was enjoying his look of excitement and awe so much, I didn’t take notice of anyone else. In NZ we’re lucky, most people are fairly laid back, a bit on the casual side, I’ve only encountered one rude person to date. Everyone else either gives him a big smile or a wide berth, but not in a negative way – he doesn’t exactly drive straight, so it’s a bit of self preservation on their part, because man do those things hurt when they hit you in the ankles.
    The other day, I saw another slightly older child with a walker. She is the only other child that I have seen in real life who has one, and it was odd, I didn’t know what to do or say. Although they were quite a distance away, I was tempted to go over and start talking with the mother, but in all my insecurities have only just realised that I missed an amazing opportunity for Isaac to see that he’s not the only kid on the planet with a walker.
    Tui Brewster´s last blog post ..Happy Birthday Reuben

  40. 50
    Christie says:

    I’m sorry the woman didn’t smile or know what to do. Your little one is so very cute and so very happy, I can’t imagine not smiling or feeling inspired. :)

    Maybe that woman has more story behind her stony stare … I hope she had a reason for her awkward behavior … I don’t mean to excuse bad manners, but just thinking of that saying “be nice, everyone is fighting a battle.”

  41. 51

    I love this post. Thank you Jeannett. Jilly is absolutely so beautiful. What an inspiration. Thank you for opening my mind and my heart.

  42. 52

    I confess… I’ve read this and keep marking it as unread.

    It’s only since becoming a mother myself that I’ve finally started to feel like I understand a tiny part of my own mother’s heart.

    Remember those beastly hearing aid boxes that would clip to a kid’s overall bibs right smack in the front? Wires hanging down from ginormous hearing aids plugged into each ear and fat wires connecting to the box? People staring. People whispering. People staring some more.

    I felt like I could never communicate without the whole world being suddenly captivated by my language. Even something as embarrassing as, “I hafta go to the bathroom”, witnessed by people who seemed to be completely obvlivious to their frozen gaze and curious expressions.

    Many were unkind. Many were sweet. But I wanted ZERO attention.

    Small wonder most of the kids would rip their hearing aids out and at least pretend to be “normal” until everyone else reacted to a sound.

    It had to break my mother’s heart. I know it did. And watching my kindergartener get hit in the face because of his “big glasses” must feel a tiny bit of it.

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m not afraid. To approach and say, “gosh what a good job you’re doing!” Except I might say it in sign language.

    Rachel´s last blog post ..and then the squirrels came and they took over the whole world