Saturday, May 17, 2014

Those awkward questions

Yesterday was an interesting day. Miss Daisy and I had to wake early to go to her 12 hour EEG. I started out at a nearby gas station getting some Diet Cokes and a taco for me for breakfast.

I really have to work on my answers about Daisy. I know the cashier meant well. He was just trying to make conversation. But now that Daisy is one-year old, questions and answers get stickier.

Very Nice Cashier Man Who Meant Well: "Is that your baby?" (Looking at a very big baby in an infant "bucket" car seat.)

Me: "Yes."

VNCMWMW: "How old is she?"

Me: "She's one year old."

VNCMWMW: "Can she walk?"

Me: "No."

And this is where I simply screwed up. It was early in the morning. I was tired. And I guess I wanted to explain why my very big baby was in the bucket car seat. The cashier man probably didn't care. I should have kept my mouth shut. But, because it was awkward and I felt like filling in the silence I followed that "no" with, "She has severe special needs."

VNCMWMW: "Oh." (pause) "What is wrong with her?"

Again, I should have kept my mouth shut. I put him in the same place. He felt like he needed to say something. If I had kept my mouth shut he never would have known. It never would have mattered. And yes, he crossed the line. But he didn't know better. It was a young guy and he was just trying to make conversation. He didn't mean to offend or say something wrong. But now we were in that really weird place. I paused. I silently kicked myself for saying anything. And then I answered, "She got hurt pretty bad a few months ago."

He was polite. Just said he was sorry. Our transaction was done and I headed out the door. He told me to have a nice day.

I have got to learn how to keep my mouth shut.

There's something magical about turning one year old or something. I've had quite a few people ask me if Daisy can walk yet. Or make comments about her crawling and walking. One lady at Herman's high school (side note: he's back to a brick and mortar school now) couldn't stop talking about Daisy's chubby legs. Then she went on and on (and on and on) about how Daisy will thin out when she starts walking.

It's rough for me. I want a world where people aren't afraid of special needs. I want it to be OK to care for a child that needs something different or extra without it being a big, huge deal. So part of me wants to tell people that she has special needs. Not because I'm trying to make a spectacle out of her, but because it is who she is and she doesn't need to be ashamed and neither do I.

But I know it's probably best if I keep my mouth shut. It's really nobody else's business.

I know I'll figure out how to handle the awkward silence in conversations eventually.

Every time it happens though I wonder how Bio Mom will handle this. If Daisy goes back to her she's going to be up to her neck in a world she never dreamed of. Emotionally it's going to be way harder for her than it is for me. I grieve for Daisy. But a developmentally challenged Daisy is all I've ever known. Bio Mom won't get to live in a bubble where she holds her baby in a room for two hours a week and can pretend that everything is normal. If Daisy goes home, Bio Mom will have to navigate the inquisitive nature of the general public regularly.

How do you handle it when people ask questions they shouldn't?


Anonymous said...

When either of my kids display non-typical age behavior and someone asks, I just say, "S/he has special needs." That basically answers it for just about everyone, and no one ever questions further. I never give specifics to strangers because I feel like I am violating their privacy, even my bio kid. If a stranger pressed me further, I might say, "She's had a rough start" or "She has some delays" and then, "But she's going to be fine." And "fine" doesn't have to mean healed, it just means she'll be the best she can be.

kate said...

Honestly, I don't think bio mom will be able to cope. I don't think Daisy will be with her very long…if she ever gets her back.

Annie said...

I think you are so right about bio-mom.

But - I've totally changed my approach. I think I had to begin to change it when I realized that I couldn't hide can fake things for a while, but when your 14 year old has a baby and your 7 year old kills himself, and you really have no idea, when talking to people, who knows what - you just have to SPILL THE BEANS all the time.

However, here is what I have learned: it is an extraordinary ministry. There are SO many people who have troubles in their lives, often children or other family members who are hurt or damaged in some way...who don't "stack up" to the general "expectations". There are so many people who are afraid to answer the basic questions that people ask - questions innocently asked by gas station attendants, nice people at church, neighbors, etc.

Even it it's a passing moment - the young gas station attendant, etc. I really believe that my open honesty may make it possible for him (or some bystander) to also be open and honest someday and not feel they have to walk around ashamed.

Of course, I have to handle myself in such a way as to protect everyone's dignity, but really - I think that short but honest responses help the children realize that they can be honest too. They don't have to walk around feeling fearful of people finding our who they are.

Jessica Miller Kelley said...

I also feel the need to explain when someone asks how old our foster daughter is. She's 19 months, but her size and development are more like an 8-month old (FAS). So I say something like "19 months. She's got some delays." And I feel awkward about it, but I'm trying to remember that it doesn't matter what they're thinking. She is who she is, and she's making great progress.

Karen said...

Foster care just invites so many questions that are hard to answer. How do I try to explain to people that this baby is not my daughter- she's my sister for the time being. People look at my mom weird then, and tell her an awkward 'Congratulations! That's wonderful!' When it's obvious they're thinking, 'You're almost 50...don't you know what causes this?' Sometimes it's funny to watch people squirm, I'll admit.
As for questions about Daisy....gee whiz. To be honest, I would find it very hard to not break confidentiality and be honest. People are told what happens if you shake a baby, they may read about it in a book or pamphlet. But rarely, if ever, do most people see the effects of shaking a baby. They read in the paper about the shaken baby with 'life-altering injuries' and they forget about it within ten minutes. I wonder what Daisy would say if she could. Part of me wonders if she would say, 'Somebody shook me. Tell your friends that THIS is what it does, and to put me in my crib and walk away next time.' People get injured by drunk drivers, and they (not all, I realize, but many) want people to be aware of how someone's actions affected their life- that it wasn't an accident (I'm sure this is what Daisy's mom will use) and that SBS or injuries from drunk driving are PREVENTABLE. And that they are not the victims fault. Of course, being honest welcomes more questions, takes more time, and makes Daisy into an educational spectacle.

Cherub Mamma said...

I think some of the looks start when people try to figure out how old I am. I'm 42 and I'd like to think I'm not too "old" looking. But most women my age aren't toting around big babies in bucket car seat carriers. So yeah, I totally get that weird look your mom gets sometimes too, Karen!

And what you said - those are the thoughts that run through my mind about Daisy. She may never be able to tell her story. But her story can make a difference. I watched an amazing video on YouTube called "Forever Shaken" and it did have children on there who were able to say, "My babysitter shook me." That was really hard to take.

I don't want Daisy to become some sort of an education spectacle. But her story can change lives. Foster care doesn't have to be such an obscure thing. I can show people that regular families foster (we're not all in it for the money). Special needs don't have to be kept a secret. And yes, injuries like Daisy's are 100% preventable!!!

And Jessica, I can totally relate. I've got this big huge baby that acts like a 5-6 month old. She definitely has some delays. She is who she is though and she's making great progress just like your little love.

Eventually I'll learn how to say just enough of what needs to be said in each situation. I always feel like I've got the "foster mom" part of life down. I've given so many people real information about becoming a foster parent. I feel like I can talk about that without ever making it about the kids I'm caring for.

I'll figure out the special needs stuff too.