The restaurant was buzzing with customers and conversation. Our family of six was tightly packed into a booth made for four and I was trying my best to keep Beau and Bitty happy by making tiny towers out of the jelly packs we had found on the table. One, two, three, four…crash. The jelly tower fell over and a roar of laughter erupted at our booth. “Do it again, mama” Beau insisted. How could I resist. 10 towers, 5 nursery rhymes and 30 rounds of peek-a-boo later, our waitress finally arrived to take our order.
“Cheese-ba-gurger”, smiley fries and ketchup, please” Beau confidently stated . . . more laughter and lots of high-fives. We all love the way Beau says “cheeseburger” and more importantly, we love watching him exercise his independence.
But we’re not the only ones that love watching him.
In this crowded, chaotic moment, I feel the stillness of stares and it makes me smile.
As parents, we’ve all experienced those moments in public when our children’s sub-par behavior becomes the focus of undesired attention. The moments that test us, try us and leave us feeling beyond embarrassed. And then there are the great moments. The moments when our children are at their very best and we wish that everyone would stop to notice.
As the parents of children with special needs, we have discovered that these moments – the moments when people can’t help but stop and stare – are always happening.
The grocery store, park, mall, beach . . . we feel the stares and we have learned to embrace them. With each stare, we feel more hopeful that a sense of acceptance is growing in our world. For us, the stares are an opportunity to educate others by showing them the great potential people living with intellectual disabilities have. And perhaps more importantly, giving others a glimpse at the wonderful blessings we call our children.
The waitress delivers Beau’s “cheese-ba-gurger” and he gives her an enthusiastic “thank you”. Bitty swipes a fry and reminds us all to bow our heads before she takes a bite. I look up and find the couple sitting at the table next to us has ceased their conversation and has become fixated on the action happening at our table. We exchange smiles. Please keep staring at my child.