Guess what KayTar did this weekend?
These are our first outings in which she "walkered". Yesterday morning we had a playdate at the park with one of her "friends". She had a blast crawling around in the dirt, but when it came time to walk to the duck pond, I pulled the walker out of the car. I had a moment of doubt, "Should I really get the walker out? Its such a short distance." but I think I was probably feeling a bit of the "Everyone will be looking at her." too. But it lasted only a moment and off she walkered! Honestly, I don't know if anyone did stare, because I was soaring with pride. Even when the walker would get stuck in a crevice, or when it veered (as it has a habit of doing) she stuck it out, she didn't get down to crawl once! Once we reached the end of the sidewalk, she crawled off into the grass to chase the birds, but she did it!
Today we took it to the mall, the pictures above are from Bass Pro Shop while Josh shopped. The girl can multi-task, can't she? Walkering AND drinking. Impressive. I think we need to install a cup holder on the walker. :) I was a bit more secure in our walker-dom today, and while we strolled around the store (slowly, oh so very, very slowly...I saw a pack of sea turtle pass us by) I looked up at met curious gazes. Most people smiled at me or winked at her. One little boy, roughly 3 years old, passed by and pointed to KayTar and said "Baby." and she pointed back and said "Bay. Ee." It was so nice to be able to get her out of the stroller and move around on her own. Later, when we were actually out in the mall corridor, we let her walker again. I didn't snap any pictures, because let's face it, a beautiful tiny child with a red walker moving at the rate of a snail is enough of a distraction to people without adding the flashing camera of the Mama-razzi. I did see lots of kind-eyed strangers out in the hallways, and a little boy said to his mother, "Look, I think she's learning to walk!" and pointed our way. We did turn quite a few heads, but let's face it, she's adorable! Who could resist checking her out with her spiffy new wheels? It was a good experience. I've learned two things:
1. The walker veers TERRIBLY to the left, and although KayTar does a magnificient job of adjusting it, it frustrates her to no end. If it wasn't for the veering, she might be keeping up with us at an almost normal pace.
2. She is easily distracted, and would for go following us in a straight line through the mall, to go gaze at a pretty red sign or check out the nearest trash receptacle. She was exercising her legs AND her free will today. :)
But we did it. We took her out with it and we let her experience the world on her own two feet. And I could not be more proud of her.
We are navigating in a world of the unfamiliar, and days like today reinforce that. There will be times people will ask me "What's the matter with her?" or children who aren't as kind as the little boy I overheard today. There will be eyes that are not so kind, and people who cannot see the beautiful girl because they are blinded by her walker. We will experience those moments, too. I'm still not quite sure how we'll handle them. I like to think we'll handle them with our heads held high and a smile on our faces. I like to think we'll have the right answer for the questions we are asked, both kind and not so kind. I like to think that I'll have the right respond for the people who say things that are unkind, especially as she begins to understand more. But until it happens, I'm not sure. But I do know that we will still be out there, walkering with pride, hopefully teaching people by our presence that it is okay to be different. There is a post related to this over at Christy's that I think is simply wonderful. I don't think it is wonderful because she happened to quote me ;); I think it is wonderful because Christy is a beautiful writer and she was able to encapsulate the feelings that you experience when navigating in this different world so perfectly.
I'd love to hear perspectives on this, whether you parent one of these special kiddos or not. What are the right responses in these situations? Is there a right response? If you have been through this, how do you handle these things? Please don't limit it to these questions, I'd love to hear any thoughts on the subject.
Congratulations to KayTar on her new mobility!
In response to your question:
I remember that when I was young (I didn't walk independently until after age 2.5, and used both leg braces and walking casts until age 7), my mother would respond to an overly-curious stranger by saying the words "Why do you ask?" while flashing her huge smile.
It got the point across, and I don't remember a single person ever responding to the question....they usually just looked flustered and walked away.
In any case, I can't imagine anyone ever being rude to KayTar---she's too adorable!
I don't know what the right response is - she's such a darling, bright-eyed little girl that I have trouble even imagining anyone looking at her with less than kindness. I guess the right answer for people who ask questions is whatever you feel comfortable giving, at this point, and whatever Kaytar feels comfortable with later on.
Check KayTar out, swigging while walkering. Good for her! And good for you, too, for getting her out there, despite whatever reservations you might feel.
I'd planned on posting tonight on a similar issue (of how people notice and react to difference), but from the perspective of a parent with a little kid who inevitably notices and is starting to enquire about these differences. I'd love to hear what you have to say, once it's written...I want to know if you think my planned response is the correct one.
Going over to check out Christy's post.
Go, Kay Tar!!
I don't know if there is any right or wrong response. My suggestion is that you keep saying what you have been saying to us: "We are so proud of her!"
I have a little girl who was born with a club foot that had to be casted, braced, shoed and still turns in quite a bit. She'll probably never be a ballerina, but she's going to do whatever else her little heart desires. When she first wore the cast, she was 3 weeks old and I was so frightened to let anyone hold her in case they realized she had on a cast--that was silly. I only had one or two comments about the casts ("Oh, did she fall off the bed?" "Yeah," I wanted to respond, "my three week old is amazing...she's turning flips and somersaults right off the bed!?!") But the shoes...oh, how the shoes-with-the-bright-red-metallic-bar just begged for others to comment. Mostly I heard comments about how everyone knows someone who had to wear them. Or "Oh, how sad. She has to wear those shoes." I usually just snapped back "It's not sad. World hunger is sad. Child abuse is sad. This is temperary and fixable." Definitely not my finest hour. The questions I never minded were the ones that people asked with compassion. "Why does she have to wear those?" "How long will she wear them?" Those types of questions. The sweetest moment was when we took M to meet some friends for dinner who had an inquisitive 3 year old. The mother did the right thing by telling her about M's shoes. When the 3 year old saw them, she said, "Mommy! Them's better than you said! They're shiny! I NEED SOME JUST LIKE THEM!" That's in M's scrapbook. I never, ever want to forget that sweet encounter.
Good luck with the walkering. Kay-Tar is beautiful.
Frankly, even the polite questions bug me. I hate having to address what makes my kid "special" even if there is a natural curiousity to others. But that is my thin skin talking!
I wonder how I would feel in your position, where the walker is a very physically obvious thing versus my child's difference being one of behavior. Would I feel relief that a walker wouldn't be blamed on the parents? I don't know.
But with KayTar's personality and smile, I can't imagine anyone being rude. What a cutie!
Way to go, Kaytar!
I'm no authority or anything, but I kind of like Jen's response. Or I might say something along the lines of "We're really proud of her. She's doing great, don't you think?", and ignore the negative responses. People like that don't deserve acknowledgment.
She's gorgeous as always :)
This will sound silly - but G doesn't have anything visibly "wrong" with her, but she talks "funny" and behaves v. immaturely for her age (it doesn't help that she is the size of a 5 year old having only just turned 4). I've never had anyone ask me about her, but I sometimes wonder if it would be easier if people did ask questions (get rid of the elephant in the room and all that...)
If someone asks you "What's the matter with her?" I think my gut response would be to look somewhat horrified and say "What do you mean?"
Embarrass the crap out of them for being so insensitive and stupid.
Because she's lovely. Just lovely. And obviously making great strides!
Well, I have no experience here, but I would think that from KayTar's perspective, the best thing for her to see is that you have no shame or embarassment -- only total confidence that people will be nice and kind. Kids pick up on parental confidence so much.
And as far as other people are concerned, my answer is the same. Your confidence is the thing that will make them feel OK to make eye contact and smile.
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