I knew when Olivia was diagnosed that there would be stares. I prepared myself for it.

But can you ever really prepare yourself for when people look at your child like she’s a freak?

I don’t think you can.

When she was little, people would comment on how tiny she was or how she sounded like a cat. It drove me nuts. But they weren’t staring.

Now they do.

The other day I mentioned on Facebook that some girls were staring at Olivia. We were at a Brownies event with another troop from another town. The woman in charge of our “education class” was very stern and didn’t welcome chit-chat or anything, so I wasn’t able to really talk to the girls to explain Olivia’s behavior. I also wasn’t aware that we would be hiking so I ended up caring her around for an hour (my biceps were SO mad at me the next day!). Of course the girls stared…when was the last time they were carried around like that, right? Every time she’d talk, they’d look too. She does have a high-pitched voice, but still. She also kept knocking over the markers and scissors.

But do they really have to stare?

I sat there fuming. I know I shouldn’t have been mad at these little girls who were probably just more curious than anything…but I don’t like it when they stare. So instead of being mad, I imagined what I would say to them in my head. It made it a little better. But I just felt awful. I just want her to be accepted everywhere she goes. At her own school, with the people who know her, she’s completely accepted for who she is. But other places? Not always. It breaks my heart. Can you tell I needed a giant glass of wine that night?

I would hope that parents would talk to their kids about how people are different and that you shouldn’t stare or point…no matter what they see.


In the meantime, I’m just going to pretend that everyone’s staring at her adorable outfit, her gorgeous brown hair or her stellar smile.


25 responses to “Staring

  1. Come on now…you know people stare because they think she is Anne Hathaway!!!!

    I always say that I wish I could freeze Ella right now. She is the size of a 2 year old, and people think she is just tiny and cute, or at least that is what I am going with.
    I think people stare at others, particularly people with special needs, out of curiousity, and I realize that that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier. But I think there is usually not any ugly/mean thoughts that go along with the staring. Again maybe just wishful thinking. BUT know that Olivia is loved and that she is happy!! Not as helpful as I would like to be….but that’s all I got!

    Hugs to you my friend!

  2. I have not had to worry about this yet, but I don’t know how it will feel, or how I will handle it. Right now everyone thinks Lily is just adorable and so I try to focus on that for now. Thanks for this post, you always give me a lot to think about.

  3. I too have had similar experiences, and it IS hard. I try to remind myself that mostly children are curious about everything. My 5 y-o, Tracey, is very curious and sometimes comments on others – even though she goes to an inclusive daycare with her sister and sees kids in wheelchairs or acting ‘different’ all the time. It’s the adults I lose patience with….. grrrrr!

  4. I know exactly how you feel. I really stopped noticing the stares lately. My daughter Alyssa gets madder than I do. And I just tell her that they are curious and wish they new Bella like we do and how lucky they would be.
    I thought I was over all the stares and didn’t really notice anymore until one day I was taking her to Special Olympics for Horse back riding and Bella was pulling a fit in the parking lot. A mom and her daughter were staring at her until they left. And I was yelling “STOP STARING”. Boy did it get to me that day.
    I had to tell myself they are missing out on knowing my beautiful Bella. And if they did know her that wouldnt be staring. They would be enjoying her as much as we do!!!!!

  5. CrystalBurnworth

    I’m going to stand behind my comment of F/B, 3rd grade girls are still ‘moldable’. Remember, Sylvania is one of the few districts in the area that is all-inclusive; so many many kids have not been around kids they deem as different. If it was a group of 7th grade girls staring and being rude, then I think my blood would boil some, because at that time it may not be ‘curiosity’.

    I bet sweet Olivia never even noticed or if she did, cared about girls staring. We all have ‘basic needs’ that need to be filled for us to be secure and happy people. I think Olivia has an overwhelming friend, parent following that she really is happy and secure with herself.

  6. All these above commenters had something great to add.
    And I literally laughed straight out when I read Kasey’s Anne Hathaway. That’s awesome! Olivia is pretty. I love her thick hair. It looks thick anyways. Just one of her pony tails is the size of what all my hair would be pulled into a single pig tail.

  7. Sigh. I wish I had something brilliant and wise to say, but I don’t. Thing is, if you’d been able to say a few words to those girls about Olivia, those stares would have been turned into understanding, and it’s too bad that the situation didn’t allow for that.

    Maybe they were staring at your awesome biceps?

  8. You know how some people say, “Oh, I can’t imagine how you must feel.” Guess what? I totally CAN on this subject!! Our stories are different, Tiffany…but in some ways so much the same too 🙂 I have been planning my own blog post about this very subject…stay tuned! And, I’m sorry…but…yes, I am totally staring. It is hard to look away when you come across those rare few whose beautiful souls shine so brightly from the inside out 🙂 ps: and just because I am a sucker for cute kids clothes, I am checking out that rad jacket too!!

  9. I imagine that they stare because they are so amazed at the strength that this beautiful child has. If they only knew how hard they work just to do the little tasks. If they only knew. But once in a while someone does know and a smile and a few kind words makes all the difference.

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  11. Well, her outfit is adorable and she is gorgeous! But I hear you.

    When I was young I had a birthmark on my nose. While I know that it is not the same, I do know what it feels likes to have someone stare at you. I hope that I raise my children to be accepting of all people no matter how different they may sound, move, or look. I am happy that my son goes to a fully integrated school. He attends school alongside students of many backgrounds and ability levels. Seeing someone in a wheelchair or making different sounds does not seem to even strike curiosity at this point.

    You have such a love and passion for Olivia (as any mother would) and you are doing your job to help protect her. But all of us have a responsibility to do our job in raising considerate understanding kids. I hope I am doing my part.


  12. I thought of your inspiring story as a mom when I saw this 🙂

  13. Tiffany,

    I wish I had something wise to offer.

    I hope that we can love our kids and try to protect them as best we can. The rest, I believe, doesn’t matter.


  14. Right now, my Olivia gets stares because of her hair. She is still pulling at it, so the left side is very, very short and the right side is starting to get long enough to be poufy, so it might be time for a trim but even then, she gets stares because people are thinking, “Why is that girl’s hair so short?” Whatever. Like you, it drives me nuts but I try imagine what I’d say if I could say something. I just want everyone to accept her too because like your Olivia, mine is just amazing and people realize that once they get past the differences.

  15. Shake it off! You will never be able to control other people’s behaviour. Ever. I would stare at her because she is beautiful and I am so envious of her cute jacket. I totally want it.
    Also on a side-note, through their staring they got to witness the love and support that you provide for your daughter and that is a really good thing for them to see.

  16. She is beautiful!

  17. Soooo not the same thing but…….. when my daughter was little, people would often stare at her. She didn’t like it. But she was the only Asian for miles around. Apparently, in the little podunk, Southern town in which we lived – she was a novelty. She hated the staring. So I told her, “It’s fine to stare right back at ’em.” So she did. Sometimes it would stop the staring. Sometimes it would invite a positive dialogue. Rarely would anything negative come of it. You’re right – you never get used to it. But you can find another way to look at it. And it looks like you have! (Hugs to you and your beautiful, little girl.)

  18. I have a feeling that the reason third graders irritated you so is because kids this age are so brutally honest still. They were staring because they don’t know better and they are naturally curious about this person who is different. Older kids and adults (for the most part) will look away and pretend they’re not even seeing you or her. I’m not sure which will hurts more. Do you see what I mean?

  19. right now, my kids are so young that they have no concept of staring….or how it might make someone else feel. but i try to talk with them about treating others as you want to be treated. i never really knew how to react to anyone who looked or acted differently than what i thought was normal when i was growing up and i want my kids to be better at that than i am. i had a major breakthrough back in february when we went to guatemala and volunteered in a special needs orphanage. the first hour was torture for me because i just didn’t know what to do with so many of those children. but once we finally started really interacting with everyone…girl, you couldn’t have pried me away from them! sometimes it’s just a matter of someone becoming comfortable with differences.

  20. If only the troop leader had paid enough attention to notice the staring and used it as a learning experience. You have done such an amazing job of teaching other adults and students about Olivia that they can’t help but love her and accept her for all that she is. You have touched their lives in amazing ways and helped to make them good people. Perhaps someday you can do the same for the area troops. Staring is so hard. I’m with the others, though. I would stare at Olivia because she is so very amazing.

  21. At the risk of saying the wrong thing (and please tell me if I did)…

    I have a “starer”…Chuckles, 7, stares at everyone and everything. She stares at her friends and strangers. She stares at her teachers and at other adults. She stares at kids and old people. She just stares. But she doesn’t stare because she is mean, she stares because she is curious. She likes people as a whole and is just curious. She is completely accepting, but she stares. If she ever meets Olivia (or should I say “when”), she might stare. But she stares at all people she meets. And if she stares at Olivia, I guarantee, she would see her beauty and her intelligence. Maybe these girls were a little like this.

    If anything, if I were you, I would be annoyed with the lady running the program who seemed too rigid to change things up a bit and give you a minute to talk to all the girls. This is SCOUTING, after all, where girls are taught to be caring and considerate. Couldn’t you have a minute to chat with the girls you didn’t know? Sheesh.

    (And I totally agree…Olivia DOES look like Anne Hathaway! Has she watched the Princess Diaries? One of my girls’ favorites…)

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  23. She does look like Anne Hathaway! I never realized that before!! She is amazing, and beautiful, and I agree that they were staring because of that!

    I like what Heather said, and wonder if you could speak to the other troops about differences, and disabilities and how they should handle it. I’m sure it would make the road smoother for the other families with disabilities, but also smoother for you and Olivia if you ever have another funciton with them in the future.

  24. I couldn’t read this and not say something. I think you’re right- I don’t think you ever can prepare yourself for stares and judgement of your children. I am still in the stage with Helena that people think she is a cute little girl who doesn’t talk. As much as I read and think about what things will be like when she is older, I really have no idea what it will be like or how I will react. I can only hope that my introverted self will do half as well as you at informing people and creating an accepting environment for my daughter.

  25. you know, Olivia does have the gorgeous chestnut hair I’ve ever seen…
    it must be hard though…the stares…people look at Brooke, but she’s still a baby so I can pass it off to myself as people just staring at a baby, as they often do…
    kids though don’t know…prob curiousity…I myself would be curious…
    and actually, one of my friends here has a daughter with Cri du Chat, and it took me a good few months to ask her what syndrome her daughter had…people are so nervous about offending…and before I had Brooke I didn’t understand that…

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