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..."