Dear Target Employee Who Just Needs to Get a Clue,
Can I share with you a little wisdom that may make life easier? As much as people may normally like talking about their children, be careful when you are about to label someone else's child...in any way. Though all my children have special, individualized needs, today you noticed my daughter, Samantha, and her traditionally obvious "special needs." You noticed her smaller head, her rigid body, and her lack of vocabulary. And you attempted to strike up conversation...however, it felt more like you were attempting to somehow prove that you were smart? Aware? Anything but ignorant to the special needs world?
All you needed to do was scan each individual item. That's all. I'm all for striking up superficial small-talk. I actually do it often with the cashiers of stores. But you wanted to get deep. And you wanted to diagnose. I didn't like it. The conversation went something like this:
You: "How old is she?"
Lesson: When you want to know info about any child, ask about them all. It's more polite. It shows respect to ALL the children, because, yes, I have daughter B sitting there in the cart who is fully aware that her sister stands out and receives a lot of attention...and daughter B may actually feel like she sits in daughter A's shadow.
Me: "Well, Sammy is 7 and Callie over here is 5 1/2 years old."
You: "She's always going to look like that, right?"
Lesson: There are 2 lessons here. 1) Don't make statements about someone's child like that. 2) Saying, "right?" at the end of this statement doesn't officially make it a question. Try this. Try asking a question. It's really ok. In fact, it's waaaaay better to ask a question, even if it may appear to be ignorant, than to make a flat out statement. For the record, asking me this would not have felt ignorant to me.
Me: "Well, we don't know what to expect exactly."
You: "But she's always going to look like that, right? Like a baby?"
oooo Oh no you didn't. Lesson: Maybe you are unaware of what a baby looks like, and I didn't have child C with me for the comparison. When you know that a child is 7 years old, just don't tell their mom that they look like a baby...unless you are 7 years old yourself. Then it's totally acceptable. I have children tell me that Sammy looks like a baby, but YOU are not a child. Don't call my little girl a baby.
Me: "uhhhhh We just don't know what to expect. What she has is really rare and we just don't know..."
You: "Well I saw this documentary about it."
Lesson: Do NOT cut me off when I am speaking and trying to answer your question.
Me: "Yeah, that's something different."
You: "No. There was a documentary about this girl who was like her." (referring to Samantha)
Lesson: Ask me "her" name instead of just pointing to "her." You're "NO" caught me off guard and put me on guard. If you hadn't already annoyed me enough, you're beginning to totally lose me and I'm shutting off.
Me: "Yeah, she had a different diagnosis than my daughter."
You: "No. The documentary followed 2 kids. One was a girl in England who was like 30 but still looked like a baby."
Lesson: Drop it with the baby thing...and I already said it was different. Back off now.
Me: "Yeah, that's a different diagnosis, but it's an interesting story."
You: "No. It was just like..."
Lesson: This is the 3rd time you have told ME that I was wrong. I'm done.
Me: I felt done with this conversation completely. I paid for my things and started to leave. I turned around, cut off your sentence this time and said, "I've seen it. It's a different diagnosis than my daughter. But it is an interesting story."
WHY did you feel it was so necessary to press and press...as if you KNOW Samantha? As if you've been to all her doctor appointments. As if you were there holding her down and whispering in her ear when they took her blood at the hospital, and then there again sitting with the geneticist. Because, well-intentioned-but-crazy-clueless lady, you were not. You weren't there. And you don't know. And though there are fantastic documentaries on tv about incredible and inspiring stories, that doesn't mean that you can go around diagnosing people. Please stop.
And, also, please don't persist and tell me, the mother who actually does know, that I don't have it right. Because you know what honey? I do. When I tell you that my daughter has a different diagnosis than what the tv show was about...don't tell me that I'm wrong. I would have let that slide once, maybe even twice, but that third time, I was really disgusted. If I had had the guts to vocalize the words going through my mind, you would have had an ear-full. (Ok, that's not true...I'm wanting to sound tougher than I really am.) I was angry and offended and more than anything, just really really annoyed.
Get a clue. We don't have a relationship beyond the check out stand. I've never seen you before, and I may never see you again. This is not the time or the situation when it is appropriate or worth it. You don't have to be right on this one. ESPECIALLY when it's about someone's child. Back off. Stand down. Let it be. Instead of pushing it on me, go home and tell your family or friends, "I just saw this little girl at work who is just like that documentary I saw." Do it privately. Let me win this one.