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Why are You Staring at My Children?

By Michelle Higgins - 4th August 2011

There was a time in my parenting life when I was naïve (and possibly arrogant) enough to assume that everybody was as in awe of my small people as I was. This was the Golden Era when I was a new mama and I had eyes for only one little person.

That sense of confidence that we belonged in the world slowly changed as I had more children and they grew from babyhood to toddlerdom and beyond. While there were still warm smiles and approving remarks, there was also an increasing awareness that maybe we were not as welcome as I had at first thought.

Of late, my sense is more often than not that a growing number of adults view children as an annoyance, something to be tolerated and preferably avoided. Reports of a child with special needs being booted out of a London musical, Malaysian Airlines banning babies from first class (sadly not something that will affect most of us) and a worrying trend in the US that has seen restaurants outright banning children only adds to this perception.

It has made me defensive, so much so that I recently utterly humiliated myself in public. Seated at an Indian restaurant on a Saturday night my kids were in reasonably good spirits and it did not seem that there was anything obviously annoying about our presence. But the lady at the next table just would not stop staring. She was taking a particularly close look at my 3rd child who was getting restless although he was still in his chair.

As my family left the restaurant the woman continued to stare and talk about us to her partner. I remained at the table and watched her until I could stand it no longer. Blood boiling I said, “Excuse me, is there a problem?”

At which point, to my utter shame, she broke out in a huge smile and said she had been admiring my children’s shoes, wondering if they were from Europe. She had concluded that they probably were seeing as we were not speaking English! Leaving that last comment aside, I rapidly changed tack and talked shoe brands and Sydney (using my very best English), all the while wishing to slink away and never see this lovely woman again.

A decade ago if a person had sat and stared wide eyed at my family for a full 15-minutes I probably would have assumed the best, believed that they were as in awe of my brood as I was. Sadly, I have changed or the world has changed or both.

But the next time I am confronted by a starer I am going to try extra hard to assume the best. Instead of taking a confrontational approach, and no matter how hostile the stare, I will simply remark “I noticed you admiring my children. Did you have a question?”

More likely than not the 'admirer' will continue to stare at me in an increasingly confused manner, completely unable to understand a word I say. And while language barriers may prevent us from ever finding out the true intentions of our starer, my children will receive the important message from me that they do indeed belong in the world.

image freedigitalphotos.net Worakit Sirjinda

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