I haven’t noticed any staring yet. Babies are already so funny looking—cute, but kind of funny looking—that it’s hard to notice those telltale Down syndrome features. Often Max is hiding under the stroller’s canopy, or sleepy and drooling on a shoulder, so folks don’t see him very well.
But I’ve caught myself staring. At the state fair a few weeks back we were in line next to another family with a kid with Down syndrome—cute little girl who was almost 3. The girl approached us first, pointing at Max repeatedly and excitedly. I was fascinated by her. She was adorable, and clearly enamored with Max. And yes, I found myself looking and wondering about Max’s future. I smiled at her and clumsily started talking to the parents. They were giving one-word answers. I asked how old she was, and they answered with a explanatory sigh, “she’s small for her age.” And that was when I realized that they hadn’t noticed that Max had Down syndrome, too. So I turned the stroller so they could see him better, and introduced him.
Of course, then the tone changed. We chatted a bit as our kids went through the exhibit. We’re members of the club, it seems. But I’m not sure my curiosity is any purer than anyone else’s. Just like all the other staring eyes, I’m trying to figure out something that I still don’t understand.
I got the stink-eye from a mom earlier this summer for taking a second look at her teenage son. Again, Max was asleep, facing away from them. We were in a crowd, and gone before I could say anything—not that I would have known what to say if I’d had the chance.
I’m writing this to remind future-me that I once stared, too.
Someday, it’s inevitable, I’ll write a post about how I’m tired of the staring. I’ll write that it’s not fair that Max’s struggles are written so clearly on his face when the rest of us get to keep our difficulties secret.
I can’t guarantee that this old reminder will make me any more patient or gracious or polite when I catch someone staring at my son. But hopefully it will at least make me humble, and remind me that I was there once, too.