Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Every time we've gone out in Kiki's short life, she's attracted attention. It's obviously common for people to coo over babies in stores and whatnot, but it's immensely rewarding as a parent to bask in that adoration nonetheless. Of course I'm a complete idiot socially so I've never really quite got the hang of responding gracefully to attention. When I'm told she's a beautiful baby, my quasi-socially-aware responses range from "Thank you" to "Well, we think she's a keeper." (I'm not even joking. I've said that. More than once.)

I never quite know where to go from there. Do I engage in conversation? The worst is when they have kids too; I usually compliment their children as well, because it seems rude not to reciprocate, but I always feel like it sounds so lame even though I swear I'm sincere.

On exactly two occasions in her entire life, strangers who have complimented her went on to mention that they had a family member who has DS (one had a granddaughter the other was a niece). Both times it took me completely by surprise. The first time it happened was the first time it had occurred to me that other people might *notice* she has DS; the second time because I'd forgotten since the last time that people might *notice* she has DS.

For some reason each instance set me to thinking that maybe, maybe every compliment she gets is really some kind of half-pitying encouragement, some way of saying, "If we tell you she's beautiful, that will lift your spirits and maybe help you get through another day."

And when I get to that point, I actually have to laugh at myself. For one, when strangers tell me she's beautiful, it does lift my spirits and makes me feel fantastic. And other than an overly active hindsight imagination, I've never had the impression that anyone offers me any pity. The compliments have always come from people who interact with my child; they flirt with her and she flirts back, and they are pleased. I've seen this same interaction between small children and strangers my entire life; countless times, I've been the stranger charmed by a child.
There's no difference when it's my child.

It does remind me though of an instance when I was pregnant. I remember one of my friends gushing to me that she had seen the cutest DS baby the other day at the store. I knew she was sincere, and I knew she meant all the best by it, but whether it was hormonal at the time or not, I remember being mostly struck by one thing: she hadn't seen the cutest baby at the store; she had seen the cutest DS baby at the store. She had classified the child by his/her disorder even in the same breath she was using to be complimentary. I mean even when people are talking about puppies, ie, "I saw the cutest puppy at PetSmart today!!", they don't generally mention the breed of puppy unless asked or because they've got a certain inclination towards that certain breed.

In summary I guess I should give her the benefit of the doubt and assume because of unborn Kiki's DS that she had an inclination towards it. But at the time my thought was, "How many people will go home after meeting Kiki and say the same thing? Will Kiki spend her entire life being that DS girl someone met or knew?"

Sometimes I don't know if I'm being ultrasensitive or not sensitive enough. I guess at the end of the day I can only be honest about how I feel or what I think and go from there.


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