Parents: What I Wish You Would Do

Parents: What I Wish You Would Do

Courtney WestlakeCourtney Westlake
Blogger at | Mom of Two
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As we enter the playground area, your child immediately points to mine, calling loudly “Mom, look at HER!”

You quickly hush him, calling him to you to quietly reprimand him.

You’re at the end of the same grocery store aisle when your child catches a glimpse at the baby in my cart and asks “why is that baby so red?”

You practically put your hand over his mouth to stop as much of the question as you can, while hurrying around the corner without looking back.

Your children freeze, staring open-mouthed at my daughter at the library, and you get a rising panic in your eyes as you try to distract them to look anywhere but.

I recognize all of this unfolding, nearly every day. I hear all of the questions, I glimpse all of the pointing out of the corner of my eye, I notice all of the whispered comments.

I hear you, and I see you, and I feel it all, deep within my heart. And it makes it worse when you then try to “hide” it from me, from us.

You’re embarrassed, and I understand that. But we’re both parents, trying to do our best, and we both love our kids fiercely. And when you try to hide these obvious conversations that are happening right in front of us, it feels like you’re hiding from our family. It feels like the small insignificant gap between us that your child has noticed has now grown into a wide-spanning canyon that no one wants to cross.

What I wish you would do?003-e1434974707176

I wish you would invite us into these conversations about us.

I wish you would close that small gap by relating to us as you would to any other family on the playground, instead of making the gap bigger by treating us as unapproachable.

When your child points and tells you to look, I wish you would respond clearly, “Yes, look at that pretty little girl. It looks like she’s having so much fun playing, just like you are!”

When your child asks you “why is that baby so red?” or “why does she look like that?”, I wish you would answer honestly: “I’m not sure, but the way someone looks isn’t important. We all look different from each other, don’t we?”

I wish you would encourage your child to say hi and to ask my kids’ names.

I wish you would apologize without feeling ashamed if your child is offensive right in front of us: “I’m so sorry, we’re still learning how to ask questions respectfully.” It also goes a long way if you tack on: “Your daughter is so cute, how old is she?”

And above all, I wish you would talk about differences more often. I wish you would read to your child about differences, and I wish you would positively and naturally converse about various kinds of differences, from wheelchairs to birthmarks, from Down syndrome to ichthyosis, from racial differences to wearing glasses. Ultimately, I hope that our children learn that if they have questions about someone’s appearance, they can ask you later, privately, so that they don’t hurt anyone’s feelings – because, after all, how we treat each other is much more important than how someone looks.cIMG_9550-e1434974448489

So next time, I hope you don’t hide. I hope you invite us into your conversation. Instead of a steep divide that places our family on the other side with a “do not look at and do not talk to” sign, I’d rather be a positive opportunity for your child to learn how to respect and appreciate physical differences.

This post was originally posted at on 6/22/15.

Courtney WestlakeAbout Courtney Westlake

Courtney Westlake is wife to Evan and mother to Connor (6) and Brenna (4). She is a writer, author and photographer, and chronicles family life after Brenna was born with a severe skin disorder on her blog Blessed by Brenna. Courtney is also the author of the upcoming book A Different Beautiful, released August 2016. You can also find Courtney on Instagram and Facebook.

View all posts by Courtney Westlake here.

19 Comments on “Parents: What I Wish You Would Do”

  1. There is nothing wrong with a child asking a question but we as parents must teach them how to ask nicely.My son once asked a very heavy man in Canadian Tire why he was so big,I almost died right on the spot but the man calmly said I am over weight because I eat too much and patted him on the head and walked away.

  2. What a great article! Children are so incredibly curious and sometimes forget that they are not being polite when they ask a question. My children have said some things that have embarrassing but now I know how to better deal with the situation. Thank you!

    1. So glad you found this helpful, Lisa! You’re exactly right about how curious children are. They don’t usually mean questions or comments like this to be rude. But it’s important for us as parents to recognize how it makes others feel and know how to turn it into a learning moment for the child. We found Courtney’s article really helpful too!

  3. I came into this site on a freebie mom giveaway that I probably will not win anyway, but when I stopped and looked I found this blog. I am a single father of a 4 year-old and this situation has started happening to me allot, I won’t go into detail about what happened in these occasions but it made me want to hide somewhere and I couldn’t believe what my daughter just said aloud. You have no idea how much this blog will help me the next time this happens because I wasn’t sure how to handle it, now I do….

    1. Daniel, thank you for your wonderful comment. It makes us feel very good to know how useful this post was for you. Those types of situations are so difficult and uncomfortable, as you say. It’s really hard to know what to do. Courtney’s blog post really helped us see how to better handle these situations as well. Thank you for visiting our blog and thanks for the comment. Good luck in the giveaway too!

  4. Oh, what an incredible article! I am definitely going to share Courteney Westlake’s incredibly informative article with my two work groups: Diversity Committee & Student Success Committee. Maybe we could invite Mrs. Westlake to speak at out junior college campus sometime. Her powerful yet brief message was so well written & sincerely educational. I believe our students, staff, and faculty would truly benefit from her, if only through her written words. Thank you so much for your courage to post your story and for including photos of your family. Visual aids are much more effective in drawing the reader in. Please let me know how I can get in touch with Mrs. Westlake for further information and discussion opportunities. Many thanks! Jessica Traver

  5. This article really touched home. There are so many other things that people SEE about our children and ourselves that is far from perfect, and so many are downright rude about it. Many act as if they will “catch it” or our disability will wear off onto them if they are pleasant. We do need to teach our children from small toddlers to first be pleasant, and real. I know I will be thinking about this article all night long.

    1. Exactly, Jean. Thanks for your kind and thoughtful comment. You are so right about some folks acting like they’ll “catch it.” This post and your comment both really say it perfectly.

  6. I wish more parents would take your advice. I have worked with children with disabilities and they get looks and comments from other children. Parents are often quick to quiet them, but it would be nice if they spoke to their kids about understanding these children who are experiencing life just like they are.

  7. This is beautifully written, my nephew is a paraplegic. And my sister feels the exact same way. He is one of five. He spends 95% of his time out of his wheelchair, because he can be more mobile. But it creates much more stares and whispers in public. ” just ask,” he has a beautiful personality. And is very engaging. Thank you for writing this!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Jana. Your sister and her son must experience this all the time. “Just ask” is right.

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