Thanksgiving is known for its celebration of the harvest, but the first Thanksgiving was celebrated to give thanks for safe guidance to the “New World.” In Canada, Thanksgiving is a celebration for surviving a particularly long journey through perils of storms and icebergs. Notwithstanding the historical element, Thanksgiving has often been a special time of the year for me and my family. I got my 1st period (blindsided and completely unprepared at a family friend’s house), I announced that I passed the NY Bar Exam to my family on Turkey Day, and it’s the day that John and I informed our loved ones of our secret that I was pregnant (with Ethan). Thanksgiving has also been a day of sorrow; when I was 24 my grandmother passed away.
This year, the release of my article, “It’s Okay to Stare: What to Do When Someone is Different,” was published by Parents Magazine just in time for the November Holiday. With an understandably long lead time at the magazine, the article was long in coming–in fact I believe I signed the contract last Spring! For months I have been incredibly excited for the piece to be published. The topic of how to help parents deal with their naturally curious kids is important to me both as a parent of extremely inquisitive children, and as the recipient of countless stares directed at me and my children. Overall, through my experience of having two fingers and shoes that never quite fit, I was thrilled to be able to offer people a useful way to approach this very important subject.
However, what I was not anticipating was that I would learn so much this past week from the Facebook blog posts submitted by Parents readers in response to my article. These were real people, with real-life experiences that appeared to share my views, but approached the subject with their own twist, their own insights. For example, I was floored when I read about a woman who wrote that three of her children are biracial, the fourth adopted and that she learned that people have assumed she cheated on her husband with the first three “because he is different.” “Please do not assume, just ask!” she advised about her own story. Then there was the reader whose heart would break every time someone just stared at her son, a four-year-old with Down’s Syndrome. Although her Mama Bear protective nature would attempt to emerge, she realized that by allowing others to naturally engage, her son Oliver’s smile would win them over every time. Another reader chimed in (whose father lost his legs due to a swimming pool accident), “I remember a few moms and dads were embarrassed about their kids asking, but my dad would have [preferred] that they ask him than be scared or stare. The adults were usually worse than the kids usually.” These were all insights from people touched either directly or indirectly, by difference.
One woman, after reading many other posts, advised that she believes people don’t stare because they are afraid, but merely are curious and have a heavy heart for the person. From my life experience, although curiosity is often a factor, I continue to believe that many simply are afraid to have to confront those that are different or feel terribly uncomfortable around those that are. Of course, many who may not fear the confrontation nevertheless still cringe at the thought of their children embarrassing them. This is of course what prompted me to write my piece for Parents.
Despite the fact that this life adventure has been at times rocky for me, this Thanksgiving I give thanks to all the people who have taught me along the way as much, if not more, than I have been able to guide them.