Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Adults say the darnedest things

Overall, Erin, Blaise, & I have been pretty fortunate as far as rude/strange comments from people go. Sure, we've had the occasional odd look from someone when they've noticed the feeding tube, but all told we've encountered far less of that sort of thing than many parents we know. Still, every so often someone we run into apparently has an uncontrollable urge to say something ignorant or idiotic to a complete stranger, and luckily we're there just in the nick of time.

Now the few times this has happened to me, it's always been the case that the person in question probably had no idea that Blaise had any kind of medical condition. They were just engaging in the usual "Let me tell you how I raised MY baby..." kind of stuff that must sound like "good advice" to them and actually comes off as "pompous" to the rest of us. I usually just nod in a non-committal way and say things like "That's great" or "That's really interesting, thanks."

Today's encounter wasn't so much different than others, but for some reason it got under my skin. Blaise and I were heading up to Arlington to pick up some meds from her pharmacist (who's this incredibly nice guy named Larry) and at a particularly long stop light, this woman looks into the stroller and sees Blaise:

Her: "What a cute baby! What's his name?"

Me: "Her name's Blaise."

Her: "Oh! She's a girl. She's dressed like a boy, you know."

Me: "Sure. Y'know...lots of hand-me-downs. She likes shirts with animals on them."

Her: "How old is she?"

Me: "8 months today."

Her: "My goodness! She's so SMALL! I can't believe she's really 8 months. She looks like a much younger baby than that."

Me: "Well, she came a bit early..."

Her: "MY Bradley was much bigger when he was that age. MUCH bigger. He was such a big strong baby...definitely a lot bigger than that."

...now there's lots of ways I could have responded. The old smile-and-nod would've gone fine. So would anything from my repertoire of interested-sounding-grunts, I bet. For some reason this got to me though, so I decided to let her have it.

Me: "Yeah. I bet he was born with all of his intestines."

Her: ...

Me: "See, she's only got about a third to a half of what she's supposed to have. Surgery the day she was born. Big scar on her belly and a lot less intestine. She's got a feeding tube into her stomach, but we only use that at night now. SO much better than the IV."

Her: ...

Me: "So yeah, she IS a bit on the small side."

Probably not my finest moment, but not exactly her peak either. People are so weird. Who looks at a baby that's on the small side and tells the parent about how much bigger and stronger their baby was? We were of the opinion that stupid parent one-upsmanship was nuts when we thought Blaise was going to be your typical healthy baby. In light of what actually happened (and the many parents we know facing more difficult circumstances), nothing seems more petty.

Blaise and I kept walking and we ended up witnessing a minor traffic accident (it was an eventful walk). One car rear-ended another fast enough that the next three cars ahead in line ended up damaged. Everybody pulled over and the woman in the first car to be struck got out rubbing her neck and holding her arm a bit funny. Passers-by were gawking and the people in the cars were obviously doing the insurance/"do we need to call the cops?" song-and-dance. Doing my part to help by mercilessly rubber-necking, all I could think was that the woman I just spoke with clearly had no idea how little it takes to push anybody beyond what is normal and easy and convenient. Those people in the cars? 60 seconds ago everything was normal and boring, and all it took was one idiot texting while he was driving (yup, for real) to seriously mess up their day. If his foot had been just a bit heavier, it could have been much worse.

I'm clearly over-thinking all this, I know. To a certain extent, the fact that parents feel comfortable saying rude and implicitly judgmental things to us in public must be a sort of commentary on how well Blaise is doing. Still, I guess it served as a reminder that no matter where we go from here, I will likely never think about kids, mine or anyone else's, quite the same way as other parents.

OK...enough heavy stuff. The little cub had a great day today, just hanging out with me after I had another long day of testing at MIT on monday. We walked a lot, we played a very fun game of hide-and-seek with one of her teddy bears, and she even took a solid nap in the afternoon, which she rarely does for me. Of course, she made up for it by shrieking for a decent chunk of the early evening, but so it goes.

More pictures soon!


Sandra said...

Hmmmm. Reading Dad/Ben's grounded and questioning entry and having just come from a 3-hour dinner with Blaise's Gran in KC (complete with extended viewing of peek-a-boo videos) I'm reminded of a question poised by John O'Donohue (a celt by birth, a philosopher by education and an inactive priest by-choice, before his too early departure from this earth).

He posed the question: Who has ever seen their own face? Nope, pictures and reflections in mirrors don't count. The answer is simple: no one. Our face is an icon of sorts, who we are to the world, but does that even matter? Is that really us/you/me?

The answer? We see ourselves only when we appreciate the image of our self in the eyes of another.

So....the woman's rhetoric was about her, not about our beautiful Blaise. And, yes Ben, you could have been silent...but why would you want anyone to not see your beautiful daughter thereby allowing her to be shrouded in the clouded perceptions of another?

I suggest that "our" Blasie (because she is light and hope and miracle to many across this virtual world and those who criss-cross our planet) should always be seen for who she is...never for who she is not. (Not WHAT she is not, but WHO she is not.)

In closing (to this "too heavy" commentary) I applaud Blaise for choosing the absolutely perfect parents and say: More ice cream for Blaise!!!!

PS. Can't write anymore because I have to research isometric exercises for 8 months old to build upper body strength. Cats beware!

Yuko said...

A woman at the park today was making comments like this about Max. Well, re-reading your blog now, I see that her comments weren't quite as extreme. In any case, I thought of you, and adorable Blaise, and I just smiled.

Mom2Juliana said...

It's really amazing some of the stupid things people can say. Iam glad you respond the way you did. Sometimes you just have to let people know how rude they sound when they say incredibly insensitive remarks. Way to go Ben!