I heard this over and over as a child... "Don't stare...it's rude!".
I was a naturally inquisitive child. And very observant. When I saw someone different from me, I would stare. I didn't think I was being rude...I was just checking it all out. I was also very shy, and wouldn't ask questions, I would just try to get behind a doorway, or countertop to take in my observations without having to interact with the person or event I was taking in.
With Max in our lives, we get a LOT of stares. In fact, every time I take him outside, at least one person stares. They stare at his chair, they stare at his wild kicking legs, they stare at us lifting him into his van, they stare at the van. Mostly I smile, and usually they smile back...sometimes they shift their gaze and hurry on past us. Sometimes I return the disgusted look they're giving us, then smile. ;)
But with kids, I don't care if they stare. Really, I don't. Two of my favorite lines from kids upon seeing Max are from a little guy, maybe 4 or 5 while we were in a waiting room at my mom's eye doctor, "Oh my gosh...did you see how skinny that kid's legs are? He's like a REAL skeleton!". (He was no bigger himself, but he was really taken at how tall Max was and how skinny his legs were!), and most recently a little guy, around the same age as Max falling over trying to get a look at Max while his parents were looking at shoes for his older brother. He said to his brother, without taking his gaze off of Max, "Holy COW! Look at that HUGE baby!!". I cracked up! In both situations, the children's parents hushed them and told them to not be rude. But how were they being rude? That's when my happy bubble bursts, and I get upset at the parents.
It happened again last night when my sister and I walked to the grocery store with Max to get some ice cream. We walked in, and Max was in his big blue chair. A little girl, about 8 years old was stopped dead in her tracks staring at Max. I may as well have been pushing a pig in a stroller. When her mom caught on to what she was so enthralled with, she grabbed her by the shoulder and pulled her along, loud whispering to her "Don't stare!! It's RUDE!".
Such a moment lost there, for the girl, for the parent, and for all people with differences. I guess I could have tagged the little girl down and let her know it was okay to be curious about Max, introduce her to him, let her ask questions, or touch his chair. But honestly, the reaction of the mom made me feel so uninterested to educate the masses on disability awareness.
And mostly, I was there for my ice cream.