Parent Perspective - Siblings
Column Contributor: Heather Saylor
LPA Today, winter 2009, Vol. 44, No. 3
When I was sitting down thinking about what to write about for this issue, pondered this question to myself: have you ever noticed how people stare at our kids, our families, LP’s in general? Why do you think average stature people look at little people? Do you think they look and imagine their lives as a little person? I mean, my average stature son, Timmy, used to cry when we went to LPA events because he wanted to be a dwarf. He used to say, “I want to be a dwarf! We always do everything with the dwarfs, what about me?” He also noticed the staring at a very young age, while Ben was completely oblivious. Timmy would say, “Mom, why is everyone looking at me and smiling like that?”. So let us explore these two issues – staring: how to handle it; and the average stature siblings and friends: the other children.
As far as staring goes, I have always been fairly consistent with the response which is to ignore it. However, ignoring is not always enough, especially when staring is accompanied by pointing, and sometimes loud comments. I will admit there have been times when I wanted to respond to this ignorant behavior with some very pointed comments like, “What’s the matter? Seeing little people?”, or “Are you really that stupid, or just mean?” However, the rational adult inside me has always own out. As I mentioned in my article about language, staring is part of that story. If as parents we respond with sarcasm or anger, we breed and teach sarcasm and anger. So…that old adage “practice what you preach” really comes to mind. Sometimes I’ll ask if the person has a question, especially if the person is a child. Other times, I’ll just ignore it.
I also encourage Ben to speak for himself. We had an experience at a movie theater where a young boy was staring at Ben and then Ben came and spoke to me about something and other boy cried incredulously at me, “He can talk?! How old is he?” At which point I turned to Ben and said, “Tell him how old you are and why you’re so small”. I know that at the time (Ben was 8) Ben did not want to talk to the kid, he was hurt by his insensitive comments, but Ben has learned through the years to be proud of who he is and comfortable with himself. Traits we would all like to have.
But what about the “others”? Our other children, our friends? How do they handle the staring and the attention? Timmy realized at an early age that everyone, and I mean everyone, remembers Ben. We were at the grocery store and a mother came up to us and introduced herself and her children and explained that her children were in the babysitting room with Ben each week at the YMCA. Timmy at the tender age of 3 walked up to her and said sweetly, “Hi, you don’t remember me, I’m Tim. I’m Ben’s brother.” And ten years later, the pastor of our church still cannot remember Tim’s name. He always asks, “What’s your other son’s name?” It is difficult for Tim to accept the attention that is always given to Ben – positive or negative.
Even though Tim will tell you that he does not like his brother (you know they’re teenagers), he is often angry and offended when he sees people staring and pointing at Ben. I’ve heard from other adult LP’s and they say that their friends and siblings get so much angrier than they do about staring and comments. It is often our first response to protect those we care about but I believe that the average stature siblings and friends of our LP children recognize what we do about LP’s. That is, that their size is not necessarily the most important part about them. They are people first, not little first.
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