Staring Back...When Your Daughter Looks Different

My daughter was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010.  Besides the fact that she's still in treatment she's just a normal 7 year old girl...

It's human nature to look at something you don't understand.
To look longer to try to get an idea of what it is you are seeing.
An extended gaze that often turns into a stare.
A stare that you probably don't even know you are a participant in.
It just happens.
And it seems to be happening a lot to my daughter.

Zoe is a seven year old girl whose counterparts have long hair that's braided or ponytailed or just swaying in the breeze getting stuck in their mouth.
Zoe has none of that.
Her hair has fallen out twice.
The last time she had long hair was early fall 2010.
It seems to have ceased growing.  
The oncologist has said that it should return to it's normal growth cycle after December.
But until then it's pixie short.
Not something a "normal" seven year old girl has on top of her head.
But it's our normal.
Her normal.
She gets stared at everywhere we go.
She doesn't notice.
But I do.
So does her dad.

It usually goes like this...
we walk into the library, or the mall, or the pizza place, or the movies, or the apple orchard, or the candy shop and we pass a patron who just happens to be standing still.  Perhaps he/she is waiting for someone and as we walk by them they are staring at Zoe.  
I'm a naturally very observant person.
I notice things that other may be too busy to see.
I like to say that I see all.
And I see the stares.
I see the person giving my daughter the dead locked stare.
Trying to figure out if this small person is male or female. 
I see that person's stare and I hold it myself.
I give them a dose of themselves right back.
I stare at them until they finally lose their grip on Zoe and then 90% of the time their gaze goes to me and I have them.
They know I have seen them.
They know I have locked onto them and I have seen what they are doing.
I don't smile.
I don't give them a look of "it's okay that my child is confusing to you and that you have been staring at her trying to understand, it's okay."
I instead give them a look of "gotcha!  I've seen your stare and I raise you one!"
The girls and I went to a local Subway near our house a few weeks ago and we will never go back.  
Because of the blatant stares from the two female employees.
And the subsequent closed-in talking the two of them had as we headed for the door.
But I turned around.
I found their faces and I don't think they even noticed me.
They were still looking right at Zoe.
Whispering about her and trying to understand. 
You are supposed to make our sandwiches and smile and say thank you.
You aren't supposed to give us a dose of your stupidity and ignorance as a side.

I don't want the stares to bother me.
But as a mother with a child who is sick and "different" and who has been different for so long it's heartbreaking to see.
Heartbreaking that she is seen as odd.
My daughter should get her hair back someday.
Her oncologist has said that her hair will probably never be longer than her shoulders because of the radiation to her head.
It's something I've never said to her and I have no intention of telling her.
She longs for more length to her scalp and I'm sure shoulder length hair will feel fabulous to her and she won't care.
I just know that words are going to come out of my mouth soon.
Words that the staring has brought forth.
The wrong person is going to say something soon and I'll have to step up and bring that person down to earthworm level.

So next time you see someone that is confusing to you, check yourself.
Are you staring?
Are you holding your eyes too long on someone else?
And is that person's mother holding onto you?
A mother's stare has much power.
It's full of love and fight and it will knock you over.
It will knock you back into your rude reality.

You can be sincere and still be stupid.

 

~Charles F. Kettering







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