Jessica, Namine, and I went to the zoo over the weekend with Jessica’s sisters Chyral and Melissa, and Melissa’s boyfriend Anthony. Namine, when she’s really excited, talks very very fast. In her excitement, she told me that Anshrel (Aunt Chyral), Anmel (Aunt Mel) and Ansunny (Anthony) would be joining us in going to the zoo. (“The zoooooo!”)
We had a great time, and Namine is still getting her energy back. She was in her wheelchair, and she could not have been more excited to wheel herself around. It’s a good thing the wheelchair has handles for us to grab, because we had to rein in little Miss Excitable more than a few times. She was never naughty or sassy, though, just very very very thrilled. The zoo is always fun, and this weekend was Zoo a la cart, so we essentially ate our way through the zoo. (If Namine has two most favorite activities, I would guess they are wheeling herself in her wheelchair and eating. Not necessarily in that order.)
We saw more than just animals and food, however.
As Namine’s dad (though I prefer “Haha”), I’ve become sensitive to lookers. It’s not uncommon – it is, in fact, human nature – for people to take more notice of Namine than other children. She is, after all, physically different. Some looks I would call stares, some merely a longer glance. The stares, for the most part, come from children; the adults will look and then quickly look away, as if they’re ashamed. Perhaps they are. But perhaps – and this is what I suspect – it’s merely because they do not want to be caught staring, because staring is rude. This results in repeated stolen little glances. (Or at least, they think they’re stolen. An attentive father knows.)
I don’t mind all that. After all, looking’s free. And I always look for an opportunity to educate, to broaden the horizon of a mind, even if only for a moment. What I do mind is what happened outside the big cat house. (You know, where they keep the lions and tigers, but not the bears.) A family was slowly passing us – a mother and two little girls. One little girl pointed at Namine and said loudly, “Mommy, what’s wrong with her legs?” I could just feel the embarrassment that the mother felt, plus it was a great opening for me to explain that different is not wrong.
But before I could even open my mouth, the mother grabbed her two girls and hissed, “It’s not nice to point at freaks!” And away she went.
I was livid. No expression could do justice to the rage which I felt. Quite literally, I had trouble seeing. I wanted to go after her and punch her right in her stupid face. But I calmed down, and I didn’t hit anyone. I know there is much prejudice in the world, and I also know that one day Namine will encounter it on her own. She will need the knowledge and patience to deal with it, and there is no better way for me to start teaching her than by setting an example.