Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ohmyword. So. Embarrassing.

I really cannot believe that both these things happened to me today. It's like it's been building up for a while. Have I been having an unfairly Not Embarrassing life so far? Have some of you been taking on all the Funniest Home Video moments recently and now it's my turn?


Today in the library Judah stared at the obviously handicapped young man as he limped his way along behind his wheeled walker. Then he points and says (in his, as you know, piercingly high and shrill "quiet" voice) "Dat man is funny, Mama? Why dat man so funny???"

I briefly contemplated hiding behind the shelf and pretending he wasn't actually my child and how rude! what kind of mother must HE have???? But he busted me by coming over and grabbing my hand.

At this point I still could have escaped by heading quickly for the elevator, but I have this policy of facing head on the embarrassing questions my children ask in public with matter-of-fact answers and instruction about the rudeness of the volume of their inquiries. So I didn't.


The (very nice, but surely embarrassed) young man turned! and walked over! and crouched down in front of Judah!

"Hi there, young man."

Judah waves. He's got a lotta nerve. I have no idea where he gets that from.

"I heard what you said..." He then goes on to explain that he has cerebral palsy and that's why he looks funny. We admired his "wheels" and he asked me to explain to Judah what CP is. I did my best. While dying the coward's thousand deaths.

I really suck at this. I have NO idea what to teach my kids about disabled people. I've never known a disabled person-- I have no idea what makes them uncomfortable, how they want to be treated. I try to think how I would want people to relate to me if I were in a wheelchair, but I don't really have any experiences to base it on. I don't if that guy would have preferred that I bring Judah over to ask him straight up why he walks differently, perhaps that honesty would have been more respectful than trying to hush Judah's questions? I don't know.

In the past I've simply pointed out that people don't like to feel "different", so noticing "differences" can make people uncomfortable and it's better to wait and ask Mama later. And quietly. Oh, I don't know. Blech. I don't feel like I handled it very well.


On the way out the door, an old, white-haired, paunchy DUDE, with glasses and a greasy comb-over, stopped me to say "Oh, I love your boots! What great boots! Where'd you buy them??"

Me: "Ummmm.... I have no idea..."



Hosanna said...

I thought you lost your boots???
I don't know what to say to you about the library thing....... who knows how to best deal with disabilities and children's questions? I don't know what I would have done, myself. Hummm.

Denise said...

Wow. Poor Lisi!!! And yet, it really is a great opportunity if you will...

I don't really know how a disabled person would prefer to be treated. I'm sure, like the rest of us, some prefer one way and some another. You know? I think you handled it well. The only thing I can think I'd do would be to, just as loudly as Judah, tell him "No, honey, that man doesn't look funny, he's different. His legs and body were born hurt. He's just like Daddy, he just needs that to help him walk."

Again, maybe that's just as rude and awkward. I guess I try to picture myself as the person being talked about, and what I might prefer. I think you handled it very well, for what it was.

And the boots guy??? CREEPY!

Niecey said...

I never know how to deal with that either. I know how to teach my kids about equality etc, but when they ask a question in public etc. I dunno. Sounds like you did well.

lol @ the boots.

Rachel said...

I have always felt inadequate in this area, but last year two women spoke to my Mops group and they each had a child who is severely disabled. They told several things people had said over the years that hurt them and reminded me of the things people say to someone who has had a miscarriage. It was very helpful to hear them offer some suggestions of what to say to them or their children.
I think the main thing was that just speaking to their child like he was normal was awesome to them. They suggested that you go up to the child with your own and say, "Hi, how are you, this is Collin and this is Emma, what's your name?" and stuff. Looking at the wheels of the wheel chairs was good too.
For me, if the kids question, I quietly tell them that they were born with parts of their bodies that don't work and that we'll talk about it more in the van. I tell them to smile at them, say hi and don't stare. We then talk more about why someone is born that way and what is wrong when we are in the van. I hope to help them learn to treat the person normally, and say hello right away.
But in your case when the question is asked so loudly, it's hard to know what to do! Sounds like that man had encountered this before and was very nice! There's no easy way to deal with it, just do the best you can!!

canningmama said...

I feel your pain. I would have died. But, it IS pretty hilarious. Alan has had his share of embarrassing moments as well. And there for a while, Alan had NO idea how to talk quietly. While in a checkout line, the SAME checkout line, he said as loudly as he could, more like a scream to a man that he was black and then very VERY loudly pointed out a very LARGE mole on the cashier's face. Talk about wanting to die. And, like you, I had NO idea what to say, esp. the whole "You're black!!!!" statement, and I didn't handle it so well; i just squeezed the life out of his jaw and told him to never EVER say that again in public so quietly and with gritted teeth that i barely heard myself talk. Then we talked about it in the car once we got there. And that's just ONE story about the embarrassing things Alan has said in public.... Gotta love 'em.