Thursday, March 29, 2018

Rock On

The child was young, but not young enough to not notice. It constantly surprises people that we, as disabled people, notice their behaviour. Staring, is a particular particular example, you know when people feast their eyes off of difference and fill their bellies with 'supergust,' a word that should exist for the combination of superiority and disgust. We notice and we feel, and it shocks them.

I know this because I've become more confrontative when these things happen. "I can see you you know," startles starers and "I can hear you you know," bashes bigots into silence. Somehow they seem to feel that we are ready targets who neither hear, see, or feel their behaviour.

The little girl, I was sure was feeling the eyes on her, her chair and the way her body was shaped. I had noticed her because she was glaring at something in the distance. I focused my eyes on her glare and slid along until I saw what she was looking at. She was looking at three boys all close in age and all about 4 years older the she. They were, in full view of their parents, mocking her and staring at her.

She was little.

She was young.

But she noticed.

And didn't look away.

She didn't look away.

She glared back and angry stare. She said nothing and she said everything at the same time. It was a cold, hard look at those kids. They didn't notice her eyes at first, but when they did.

When they did.

They stopped.

Dead.

Caught.

She was young and already fighting. Already deciding that she doesn't deserve disrespect. Already taking on bullies. Already demonstrating that disability doesn't always mean helpless vulnerability. Already alive to her difference and her defenses.

Rock on kid.

Rock on.

3 comments:

Girl on wheels said...

Pre-disability I was training to be a Paediatric nurse at a very famous children’s hospital in London, and so I met a lot of children with a lot of different disabilities. The hospital’s stance was very pro-child, we fully believed in children having a say in their own healthcare. And most of the families agreed with that policy and kept their kids well informed of their diagnosis and what that meant. Occasionally we would have parents who didn’t want their child to know their diagnosis, and it never ended well. Children are not stupid, they understand when they are different. Insisting that they aren’t is only going to leave them frustrated and not trusting their parents.

Children are perfectly capable of understanding difference from a very young age, my youngest brother asked Santa for brown hair the Christmas he was 3 because he wanted to match the rest of his siblings! Understanding that they are different because they have a disability is not really that much harder, especially if their disability makes them look different. So if a little girl of 4 can understand that she is different because she uses a wheelchair, and that it isn’t ok to stare at her because of that, why the hell can’t children twice her age understand it’s not ok to stare at difference? Why does so much of our society believe that children need to be protected from differences they, the parents, find unpalatable? Teaching children not to see skin colour, and disability doesn’t work. Instead of raising children who don’t care about difference, you end up raising children who find difference shameful and embarrassing. Instead just teach children that some people are different and that’s ok, answer their questions about why someone has darker skin than them or why that man uses a wheelchair. Everyone knows that children ask questions loudly and at the worst possible times, but if you hiss at them to be quiet and drag them away from whatever or whoever caused that question, you are just ensuring that they will stare the next time they encounter that difference.

Utter Randomness said...

Bless the children, for they are the future, certainly, but also because they are the present.

Rachel S said...

You go, kid. I'm putting a lot of hope and faith into the upcoming generations. From what I've seen, they're going to do a lot of stuff right once they get (or take!) the chance.

And if they're going to encounter my personal sort of difference I'd rather they do it first young. I can't blame young kids for being curious. And some of the looks I've gotten from really tiny children, as in toddlers, are downright hilarious - I can see them thinking, "Child? Grownup? HELP ME!" Or the handful of occasions when very little girls - and they've all been girls - asked me if I was a mommy. "No, I'm not a mommy, but I am a grown up!" Funny how three-year-olds are totally cool with that - and assuming motherhood makes sense as most of the women in their lives are somebody's mother.