I try to teach my kids to be curious, but not to stare. To be kind, but not condescending. To be honest, but reserved.

Last weekend, we made a trip to the outlet malls about an hour away from our home. The boys were both in desperate need of soccer shoes. Isaiah was in even more desperate need of jeans and sweaters as he has grown no fewer than eight inches in the last six months or so. And this mama always “needs” to visit the shoe store.

It’s not that I don’t notice the staring anymore, it’s just that I don’t pay attention. I figure if someone is going to stare, it may open the door for me to talk about our family. About the various disabilities. To raise awareness.

The boys… not so much.

And we get a lot of stares. A lot. The children don’t look anything like each other. And even less like us. Except the little girl in the red wheelchair. We draw a great deal of stares no matter where we go. Sometime–actually oftentimes–the stares are innocent, curious stares. People smile or ask questions or just enjoy seeing the energy in our family.

Sometimes, though, the stares are rude. They are mean or holier-than-thou.

At the outlet malls last weekend, I noticed Isaiah (the 14-year-old) staring back. Sometimes it was nothing–just a smile or a wave. He sort of invited those who were staring into our little circle. Sometimes, though, he set his jaw and stared hard. And sometimes, those people didn’t even notice.

After watching for a while, I asked him about it. He said that Esther-Faith wasn’t an exhibit at a museum or an animal at the zoo. That we were just trying to shop like everyone else. I questioned him about why he thought they were staring at her… that maybe, they were staring at all of us. “I can handle it, mom,” he said. “I’m not four years old. She doesn’t deserve to be treated like that.”

I was really proud of him. For seeing beyond himself. A year ago, he would have been offended that they were staring at him. And honestly, I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to make him stop, but I want him to be kind to everyone–even people who stare. I want him to realize that they are more curious than anything, and sometimes–especially kids–don’t know how else to learn but to observe and digest their surroundings.

How do you handle the staring?

at the park

Isaiah and Esther-Faith play at the park

HennHouse three go for a walk

Isaac, Esther-Faith, and Isaiah out for a walk

by Karin (from the HennHouse).

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