Most parents teach their children that it’s not polite to stare, but one mom of a special needs child argues that she’d rather have kids stare at her daughter.
In an enlightening open letter to parents, which has recently gone viral, mom Beth Hersom explains that because of her daughter’s appearance, many young children point or stare and most of the time, their horrified parents scold them for doing so.
“My daughter has a rare genetic syndrome called Apert syndrome,” Hersom explains. “When she was a baby, the plates in her skull fused together. That meant there was no room for her brain to grow, and she needed surgery right away to relieve pressure. Her head is larger than average. When she was born, her fingers and toes were fused together.
“Staring is rude. Pointing is rude. You know this. You’re embarrassed by your child because they’re pointing or staring,” Hersom continues in the open letter. “You shush your child and pull them away quickly, and I know you’re doing it to save my feelings, but my feelings are not so fragile and your action is doing real damage. You’re teaching your child to be afraid of what they don’t understand. I bet that most of you have a short conversation about diversity and not staring later; you’re good parents, after all.”
Hersom goes on to encourage other parents to allow their children to stare or point and use it as an opportunity to teach them.
“I would like to challenge you to have the conversation right there,” Hersom elegantly writes. “Put a smile on. Say hello. Introduce yourself and your child. I will introduce myself and my children. Your child will ask questions. Likely the same questions you would want to ask, but you feel rude highlighting the differences, even when they’re obvious.
“Here’s the thing: kids categorize,” Hersom acknowledges. “They need your help — and maybe mine — to make sure Sarah gets into the right category. They ask questions to figure out how things fit in their world. When you don’t let them ask their ‘rude’ questions, you confirm my daughter as ‘other.’ Believe it or not, every kid I’ve met who was allowed to ask as many ‘rude’ questions as they liked, learned in just minutes to see my daughter as I see her. She is just a kid.”
By the end of her touching letter, Hersom notes that the people who truly love her actually see her instead of pretend she’s not there, and the mom encourages strangers to do the same.
“Kids are not mini adults. They’re astounding little people,” Hersom says. “They’re curious and open and full of wonder. You can teach them to see a child like them when they see my precious girl, who looks different and rides in a wheelchair. You can teach them to see her as a potential friend. Or, you can teach them to be afraid. It’s your choice. I won’t judge. Like I said, I was you and I didn’t know how to act either. You don’t have to be one of the people who love her — though honestly, you absolutely will if you give yourself half a chance — but please, be one of the people who see her. Teach your kids to see her. Please.”
Read Hersom’s touching open letter in its entirety here.