We turned a corner and had to come to a stop. A small crowd had gathered around one of the museum exhibits and there was simply no way past. One of the girls, with a group of other girls, all around Ruby's age, saw me and said, loudly, "Ewww, he's so fat!" The other girls turned to me and began giggling.
I know that Ruby and Sadie have become aware of other people's reaction to my physical being. These other others see me, put prejudices into place, and feel they know me. They weigh me, not with scales, but with a set of shallow standards and find me lacking, find me less. Public ridicule to them is a natural reaction to a devalued difference. I am not used to it, thought I should be. I am not inured to it, though I've tried to be. I am not forgiving of it, though I want to be.
My fear has always been, as the children grow, that they will come to value the opinion of random strangers over the relationship they have with me. That they will, like me, grow tired of the stares and the random comments. That they will, unlike me who must, decide that they don't wish to live with it. That they will, finally, become ashamed of me and how being with me makes them feel.
"Ewwww, he's so fat!"
Ruby stepped in and turned towards me. Showing those girls her back. She talked with me, quickly, laughing, as if to distract me from what had happened. I don't want an 8 year old girl, no matter how mature she is, to feel she has to protect me from the world. I don't want her to have to step out of being a child and in to being a protector. But, she did. And she did it naturally. While it took courage, it didn't seem to take effort - this is the person she is becoming.
We continued on, she with her hand on my arm, showing connection, showing a kind of awesome defiance, and we went on. Past those children. Past the parents who heard and did nothing, and on into our day.
Leaving them fully and completely behind.