Friday, July 21, 2006

The Great Guessing Game

For a long time now we have been participants in the Great Guessing Game against our will. We have been dragged into it at the grocery store, the mall, the dentist's office, and, most recently, last night at the playground. What is this game, you ask? The rules are very simple. The game initiator does the requisite cooing over Clare before the Great Guessing Game begins - "She is so cute - she must be [insert ridiculously low number here] months old?" The numbers are all over the board - 8 months, 11 months, and last night's all time low of 3 months. THREE MONTHS OLD??? Are you kidding me? Does Clare actually look only 3 months old? Not that three-month old babies aren't adorable and precious in their own way. But do they sit up tall in the backpack carrier, stuffing dinosaur crackers in their mouth and mushing them into their full head of curly hair while grinning and "chatting" at their older brother on the slide? No, I don't think so.

Then comes our entry into the game - the polite correction of Clare's age ("Oh no, she's actually almost 16 months old") and apologies over her small size ("Yes, she is such a peanut, she does look younger than her age"). After recovering from the shock of how old Clare really is, comes the next phase in the Great Guessing Game. Not to be knocked down by their completely inaccurate guess of Clare's age, the initiator goes onto Question #2 - "Is she walking? She must be all over the house now!" And this where I am at a loss as to what my part is in this great game.

I am not ashamed or embarrassed that Clare doesn't crawl. But I also don't want to get into a long discussion of WHY Clare doesn't crawl or walk with total strangers. Another parent of a child with WS explained that whenever anyone made any comment about his daughter, he saw it as an opportunity to educate that person about WS, in order to increase awareness of Williams Syndrome. I am not sure I am at that level. After the second question (which once I answer it, the game usually ends because it's not fun to always be wrong in your guesses), I usually simply say, "No, not yet, but she's trying." I do not feel the need to launch into an explanation of WS, low tone, developmental delays, heart defects, etc. with every person who comments about Clare. First, I don't want people's pity or that blank stare of "I don't know what to say to you now," if I did elaborate on Clare's condition. Second, quite frankly, it's not their business and I am not about to open up that personal part of our life in the grocery store.

I did, however, decide to take a chance and try to talk about it when I was at the dentist. We all go to the same dentist. Jamie is going for his first visit next month, and I assume Clare will be going, too, someday. So when the hygienist started the Great Guessing Game with me (which is even harder to play when you are stuck with your mouth wide open and a dental pick in it), and came the question about walking, I decided to explain further. After all, this woman is going to see me again and is going to see my children. She may even work on Clare someday. So when I had a chance to answer the question, I started off, "No, she's not crawling yet, she's delayed..." and got cut off from there by more cleaning. Which gave the hygienist the opportunity to lecture me on how Clare is not delayed. How it is perfectly normal that Clare is not crawling yet. How her daughter did not walk until she was 16 months old. Blah, blah, blah. (I admit, I tuned her out at this point. I could not interject a word because of the said cleaning in progress, and I realized this might not be the best audience after all.) And I learned my lesson.

I am not at the point if my life where I am going to educate the world about WS. Most people entering into the Game are not even really interested. And that's okay. Because I am not interested in their life either. They are just being polite, smiling at a cute baby, and making small talk. I cannot even really be mad at their thoughtlessness because they do not mean to be thoughtless. And I am sure, before I had Clare, that I was an initiator of the Great Guessing Game at some point in my life. Having children out in public invites comments. But after being on the other end of that game, I have realized that it's not fun. And I don't plan on inflicting that on anyone else. I will smile and reply politely the next time someone asks if Clare is nine months old. But then that's where it ends as to my participation.


Kati said...

Oh, how I know this game..... :))))It is a little bit more complicated for us, because my son (16 mos, as Claire, too) is normal height and normal weight, so most people don't understand why he isn't walking yet.... Nowadays I have to say sg., but I don't want to say he is delayed or has ws, so I only say that he has hypotonia, that's why he isn't walking yet... It is not a big lie, later I can complete it, but I don't want to share with everybody what's wrong till it is not very visible...I hope you know what I mean...
I love your blog, mainly because my son is in the same age with Claire, and I enjoy your stories very much!
Bye, Kati from Hungary

Anonymous said...

I hear ya, girl. We get the same comments with Ava. Depending on my mood, I sometimes make people realize how intrusive they are by saying, "Our Ave has endured more than most adults could handle and we are very proud of her." Shuts them right up if you use a somewhat indignant tone. I know that isn't nice, but sometimes I just can't deal with the questions and unwanted advice! So hang in there, friend. You are not alone!!

Kim Monahan

Kerry said...

We're right with you too. When I tell people Brady is 9 months, they go "Wow, he's small" and then tell me how HUGE their child/grandchild/neice/neighbor/nephew/etc is and all they can do. I am tempted to say "Oh, he's two months old" because then he'd be very ADVANCED... hmmm... might have to try that! :)

Melody said...

Shawn and Tree,

I saw your beautiful family picture and your story in the latest Campus and had to check out your blog. I am touched reading it! Clare is a blessing and I wish you and your son all the strength and determination as you continue your journey with her. Last I saw you was in Babies R Us just before she was born. I know you don't have family nearby. We have a similar situation and it can be trying with two little ones. Please keep me in mind if you need anything! My prayers are with you and I promise I won't play the quessing game ;0) ! Melody (Houston) Wilder

Paola Suarez-Papp '01 said...

Hi Tree!

I saw the address for your blog in the latest EC magazine & wanted to pass by & say hello. Your children are gorgeous but that's not surprising looking at y'all in that picture in the magazine. You and Shawn have a very beautiful family. :)

I have fond memories of watching X-files with you & the rest of the X-files crew & am glad to see you are doing great.

See you around!

Anonymous said...

After seeing your photo in the Campus magazine I thought I would also take a look at your blog.

Clare and Jamie are adorable. Last time I saw Jamie he was just a baby. He's grow so much. I can't believe how much Clare has been through and I will send some good thoughts that each roadblock you are faced with is easily overcome.

I'm still in the neighborhood if you need anything--
Crystal Greenhalge Chretien

Aunt Joan said...

Teresa & Shawn - I am sorry that the 'world' isn't being polite to Miss Clare. I have never thought about asking such intrusive questions, but I have heard them! My prayer is that the thoughtless are on the other end and learn a little about manners. Hang in there, and do not feel that you owe society an explanation, or an apology, for an absolutely wonderful girl. Love to all, Joan