Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hey! You're Just Like Me!

Earlier today I was at Central Market gathering a few items for our impromptu, kid-friendly New Year's Eve shin-dig at our house. As I was preparing to pay I noticed the woman and child behind me in line. The child was in a stroller and may have been about 7 or 8 years old. The little girl appeared to have cerebral palsy and was asking her mother in an affected voice to hurry up. I immediately wanted to bond with this woman and her daughter. I longed to run up, hug them both and tell them that I also had a daughter with cerebral palsy...that I was just like them...that my daughter, who is old enough to walk, may never...that we get curious looks while at the grocery store...that we are trying to get by the best that we can.

I was afraid that this may have come across as rude or intrusive, so I didn't say anything. On my way out the door, I looked back and almost went back but didn't. Should I have? How would you feel?

7 comments:

Stacey said...

LOL this has happened to me several times. I'll see a kid in a walker and go "Hey, my kid had one just like that!" I think that in a general social situation where you have no way to easily find out what the child's disability is, you probably shouldn't just run up to someone and bring it up, although I promise that if they saw your child, they'd feel the same way. It's just awkward to go up to someone and go "hey, I have a disabled child too, wanna have coffee?"

I think we feel a definite sense of camaraderie when we come across someone like that, and a sort of instant bond (like soldiers in a foxhole!) but really, unless introduced, I don't think there's a non-awkward way of introducing yourself.

LACN said...

I agree with Stacey, it's a lot easier when it's something obvious like a walker but it's a bummer because it would be nice to be able to connect even when it's less obvious...we're all so isolated sometimes in our "moms of special kiddos" world. On at least a half dozen occasions, we've had people come up to us when Hannah is out/about in her walker and say that their son/daughter/grandkid/they themselves used a walker. I usually welcome those comments because it makes me feel less alone.

The comments I don't welcome are the ones where people will say things to Hannah like "good job sweetie" as she's walking along, a comment they would never say to another more able-bodied kid. Although well-meaning, I'm sure, these comments make me crazy because Hannah is just trying to go about her business, being Hannah, and to have someone give her this kind of unnecessary "cheering squad" feels like pity. Anyway, a rant for another day LOL!

therextras said...

I don't have a means either - of just saying "I get you" to someone in public.

But what would you lose by even a 'clumsy' attempt?

"Would recommend that stroller because I'm in the market for one?"

You would not be left wondering....

Barbara

Mel said...

Once at a video store one of the employees, a teenager, stopped me and said, "I use to use one of "those" (pointing to the walker). At first I wondered if he was joking until he explained that he had CP. It wasn't until then that I noticed his gait and the great effort it takes for him to ambulate. I'm not sure why I never noticed him working in the video store before because since then I've seen him there every time.... always cheerful. I feel bonded to him and I don't even know him. Now, years later, when I see him at the store I want to say, "Remember me... I'm the mom to the cute little boy with the bright yellow walker". Sounds dorky in writing... there is a bond in situations like that but its almost always awkward. Maybe someday we will figure it out.

BusyLizzyMom said...

I have many of these moments and I never say a thing. For me it is really odd as I work as a Nurse in a children's treatmant center for children with disabilities and I meet so many parents that I would love to talk to and have our kids meet but I cannot do that as it would not be professional. It is also is an odd dynamic as I work in the Botox clinic and often need to hold the little ones down for their injections and I don't think I will make many friends doing that. Occassionaly I will have a chat with a parent in the clinic and I know it drives the Pediatrician a bit crazy so I try to keep quiet.
We all need to live close and then we can always have someone to chat to who understands.

Katy said...

I struggle with this ALL the time. I WANT to introduce myself, but I don't want to intrude. If I see an opening, like a specific wheelchair, than I'll ask about that to get the conversation rolling, but sometimes the opening just isn't there.

Amy said...

We normally do open the conversation if it's something obvious--like wearing AFOs ("look, he has shoes just like you!"), having crutches (E immediately notices them and starts talking about her pink ones), or using a walker (even if it's with the elderly. They love it when she starts engaging them about their equipment). But if it's someone with an odd gait, we haven't been able to bring it up. There are two individuals here at work--PhD post-docs--that I see on a semi-regular basis who have the classic CP gait, and I want to go up to them and ask them all about their experiences as they got to independent walking. I feel it would be WAAAY awkward (especially since E isn't with me at work). So I'm just an observer with those two gentlemen. And BTW--one of them I saw leaving work--ON HIS BICYCLE. Just took off. Shame on me, I thought bike riding wouldn't be on the menu...guess you never know!
I have had some people with younger children approach me, tentatively...and our conversation has been fantastic. I imagine it's the same way when we talk to older parents or children...