Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Addressing differences in public

Note: I am posting in April's place this week as she is with her son John while he recovers from his recent surgery. He is doing better every day and they hope to be home from the hospital soon :) 

Most of the time I wear sunglasses to the park...even when it's not sunny out.

My boys love to be outdoors and any place that has things to climb, slide down or swing on is an extra bonus. Not to mention that it's another place they can hone their social skills (example, "Hi I'm Ethan, want to play?") Ethan and Aiden are very sociable kids, one of the qualities they've picked up from two very sociable parents. However going to the park is also a place where I too am forced to work on my own social skills - the ones you don't learn about in Public Speaking 101 or at sorority parties. The ones that have to do with addressing your child's differences.

I have no problem talking about Aiden in casual settings. The issue is, most people don't know how to broach the subject, so it gets ignored. I'm okay with that, but it does make me feel a bit uncomfortable. There is no easy way of knowing how to bring up your child's differences with a complete stranger - no way of knowing if it is a subject they are comfortable speaking about, especially since you don't know if and how they've ever talked with their own child about others who may look different.

So I often find myself "on guard", hiding behind sunglasses so I can safely scan the room for other's stares directed at my son. When I catch someone looking, it's like a dagger to my heart. I just want to scream - let me tell you about him so you don't have to wonder. But that's not always appropriate or easy to do.

After I wrote this post on my personal blog about a positive experience I had out in public, I began thinking about how I could ease the tension of social situations when I don't know what to say or how to say it? My grandmother, who recently passed away, was always full of wisdom and she emailed me a suggestion after she read that post. This is what she said:

Why don't you write the main facts about Apert Syndrome - briefly catalogue doctors visits, surgeries etc and make it like an outline or a story - either generic or personal (basically, just the facts ma'am). People never know how another person will react to a personal question but they would still like to know so to avoid embarrassment the curious person says nothing but will go home wondering what happened to that little boy. Carry copies with you and when out in public when you realize that the onlooker would like to ask a question but is afraid of offending you, hand them the outline with a big smile, and say thank you for caring, take this home and read it, it is information about his condition which is very rare and makes him SPECIAL.

I sat on this for a long time. I've read about many families who shared brochures or letters to use for their child's school or in other organized settings, but I wasn't sure if it would be a bit too much for the general public. However, I knew having something to share in such situations would help me speak up for my child if I felt he needed it, encourage others to ask questions and ultimately provide an opportunity to further awareness about craniofacial conditions.

With my grandmother's words as my inspiration, I came up with the following solution. 
I decided to take advantage of a coupon offer for 250 customizable business cards for $3.99 through Vistaprint. On the cards, I printed the following message: 
[If you cannot view the image, I've included the text here]
Hi! We are the Skees Family - Taryn, Rick, Ethan and Aiden (
Our youngest son was born with a rare craniofacial condition and we hope to
raise awareness within the community.
We understand that you or your children may be curious or have questions -- and that is okay!
We welcome the conversation :) Or, check out our blog to read more about our special little guy ( and our family.

I haven't yet received the finished product, and I'm not even sure I'll get the guts to use them when I do. Perhaps I'll just know when it's the right place and the right time. And maybe just having them in my purse or back pocket will give me the courage to slip off the sunglasses and enjoy my time with the boys at the park :)

I would love to know your thoughts on this...How would you react if someone gave you this while out in public? Do you think this is an appropriate way to bring up your child's differences in social situations? What are ways you have handled similar situations? Leave your comments below!


  1. I had thought about something similar when Matthew was born perhaps a little card or note-let with his photo and a little about him and apert's syndrome . haven't got round to it yet as we have not had people staring at him often he is almost 2 but think I will just in case good luck with your cards please let us know if they are a success.

  2. Sometimes when I am explaning to strangers or anyone for the first time about my daughter I get really emotional and want to cry. It might be kind of nice to have a card to pass around to avoid getting choked up in front of people I don't know.

  3. T-I think this is awesome. It could also be a great way to highlight Little Fire Big Heart--or other Fundraising events for CCA. You must get your wisdom from your Grandma. Love you!

  4. I created "mommy cards" about a year ago. On one side is a sweet black and white photo of Peyton and on the other is our blog address and contact information. I have handed them out several times when people are interested and ask them to visit the blog if they want to learn more about her and Nager Syndrome. In addition to letting people learn more if they want to, it also gives me the opportunity not to have a lengthy discussion if the timing isn't good.


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