My family say I have a ‘high tolerance for embarrassment.’ I don’t. I’ve made a conscious decision to remember what’s important to me: my relationship with my daughter. When she does things that others might construe as a little bit odd, I pause for a moment to decide whether this little bit of perceived oddness is really worth saying something to her about.
Then, as often as I say something, I say nothing. Some things my daughter does are just unusual rather than things I should feel embarrassed about. She sees the world slightly differently to me, and so reacts in it slightly differently to me. I shouldn’t rush to close down the way she acts because I feel embarrassed because it doesn’t fit into my thoughts about the world.
I’m not meaning to suggest that there aren’t times when the odd quiet word of advice isn’t needed. I’m just putting it out there that sometimes I think I should let my daughter be herself, and when people look at her I should judge them rather than give them the power to judge her (and me). The way I think of it is: there are 3 options I need to remember.
1. People Know
The majority of people do recognise when someone faces additional challenges in their lives, even if there are no physical signs. For instance, I was in a busy café the other day desperately searching for a seat with my youngest daughter, and a young mother was just leaving with her new born baby. I made the appropriate noises, and exchanged a few words about how my daughter was once that little and cute. Well my daughter went absolutely went ballistic, ‘Don’t talk about me like that!’ It was rather like I’d committed the worst sin imaginable. The young mother, though, instantly knew my daughter doesn’t see the world like most people. There’s nothing particularly odd about the way she looks, it’s just sometimes the way she presents herself to the world. I believe most people get that. They accept it because I think most people are more tolerant than we give them credit for. Most people, like you and I with others who have children being challenging, make allowances. Most people are better than we sometimes judge them.
In effect I’m suggesting that we shouldn’t die of embarrassment because our son or daughter has done something in public that draw attention to them. As people we all recognise differences in other people a mile off, and accept it.
2. Who Cares (part 1): Others Do It
Other girls of a similar age do the same things as my daughter, but because she is not in a group of girls it’s more unusual. But then again, if we’re being subjected to a shopping centre by our eldest daughter who needs to look inside every shop, then it’s no wonder my youngest gets a little bored. I do too. The difference probably is I don’t start dancing to the loud chart music being played inside the shop, obviously because I don’t have the moves. But other, for want of a better word, ‘normal’ girls do. My daughter even sings along to a song sometimes. So if these girls can be young and excited about life, why can’t my daughter? Maybe people who are older grow out of this enthusiasm, but why should I train it out of my daughter before her time? Yes I get the our sons and daughters face enough challenges without drawing more attention to themselves, but I also feel I’m nagging her about every other thing I want her to do to fit in to society better, let alone pulling her up on these little fun things.
What I’m saying is that most people have small eccentricities about them, and I don’t want to knock out every one of my daughter’s. Sometimes quite ‘normal’ people do some quite strange things in public, and so why should I try to suppress every bit of individuality my daughter has because I might be embarrassed by her doing something in public most people don’t. It only takes one other person to do something that is not usual for my daughter to be just a part of a minority group. Sometimes embarrassment is my issue, not hers.
3. Who Cares (part 2): They Aren’t Worth It
The last way I deal with embarrassment is, who cares! Yes there are some people who would laugh at our sons and daughter in not a nice way. That’s life. They, and let’s be charitable to them, might just be having a little laugh at something they find funny. Poor them! They are insensitive. They are people I don’t think I really want to know.
Others might be more spiteful in their laughter – a genuine poke fun at other people because they think they are so superior. These people really aren’t worth a single moment of my thoughts. If they present themselves as un-evolved amoeba, why should I give them the same respect as I might my dog? People have to present themselves as humane to be afforded the respect of being human. It is they who should be embarrassed, not me worrying about something my daughter is doing.
In short I think most people are more tolerant that we expect. Most people don’t laugh even if we feel embarrassed – I really believe this. Hence sometimes I don’t always try to stop my daughter doing unusual things. And for those who would laugh intentionally, they aren’t worth a second moment of my time. I realise my conscious decisions here have given me a high tolerance to embarrassment but how do you deal with embarrassment? Please share your thoughts here or on our Facebook page.