Today Lilia had physical therapy after lunch, and then I rushed to pick up Jio. She was in her purple wheelchair, wearing her red braces,and of course she had this coil sticking to her head and her hearing aid. Some older kids were speculating about whether she was a baby, and I patiently explained that she is six and she wore the braces because she can’t walk, but she’s practicing walking.
Then, Lilia got out of the wheelchair and started crawling on the cement, and some little girls cried out, “Ew! How dirty!” I was annoyed, but I said, “After she washes her hands she’ll be fine.” I don’t know if they were paying any attention to me or not, but they came closer to Lilia and they asked what was on her head. I explained that it was a hearing aid. (I wasn’t in the mood to try to explain cochlear implants to six year olds.) And then, they started saying, “Kowai!” I tried to remain patient, and asked “What is scary about her?” But they are only six and they can’t articulate that. They came closer and closer to Lilia and one of them was holding a stick. At that point I became pretty pissed off. One of the foreign English teachers appeared right about then, and I said, “These kids need some sensitivity training” and I explained to her what they were saying. Then I did my best to hustle my kids out of there.
I had this vision of Lilia in public school, being tormented on a daily basis by little girls like those, who are probably sent to piano and English conversation class and swimming so that they will be high achievers and make good wives and then fashionable education mamas with Chanel bags, like the ones I saw at the entrance ceremony. I imagined their parents feeling sorry for me because they have such perfect little girls and I don’t, and I hated them all.
I write essays and stories and articles about disability issues and I try to be open about Lilia’s disabilities, but my intense anger toward those little girls made me realize how far I have yet to evolve.