Every summer I’m reminded that Olivia’s “different”. During the school year, she’s surrounded by kids who know her and love her and teachers who feel the same. No one thinks of her as “different”; they just think of her as Olivia.
Then summer comes and it’s a big slap in the face. We go to the library, the zoo, the pool and baseball games. People stare. I like to think they’re staring because they can’t believe how beautiful she is; they can’t stop staring at her gorgeous, melted chocolate brown hair, her beautiful brown eyes, her perfect sprinkling of freckles across her pert little nose. But I can tell that’s not why. They’re staring at the way she holds her hands up while she walks; that she walks “funny”; that she wears a life jacket suit; the way she flaps her arms and screams when she’s excited; that she sounds different than they do.
They may not be staring to be mean, they’re probably just curious. But as a mother, it’s so hard to have people stare because you know why they’re staring.
But this summer, I’ve been trying something new. When I notice someone staring or pointing, I look at Olivia. I look at her and she’s completely oblivious. She’s swimming with a giant smile on her face; she’s looking at the animals at the zoo and trying to get my attention to tell me something cool; she’s cheering for her brother at baseball with utter abandon. So I look at her instead of trying to stare down the child that is staring at mine. Because if Olivia doesn’t care or notice, why should I? If she’s happy, I’m happy.
This summer we’re going to scream, flap, walk the way we want and hold our heads high. Stare all you want. We won’t bother to notice.