I had a dream on Monday night that made me laugh and embarrassed. I think the dream came about because of a stare-bear (and his mother) I encountered on the weekend. It gets REALLY tiring.
A woman was staring at me a lot. And so I went a bit extreme. Instead of saying hello or smiling, or asking if I could help her, I wiped my face up her arm! Like a dog wiping its slobber.
Then I woke up in horror. Sleeping Carly forgot her manners.
SO ashamed. And amused. (Imagine if I really did that?!)
I stood behind three kids in a cinema queue. One kid (maybe four years old) was continuously staring at me so I smiled and said hello. His mother, at the ticket counter, turned around and saw me. He continued staring and I just looked away and talked to Adam.
Then the kid started pointing at me and said to his brother "look at that lady, look at that lady". So of course, everyone around looks at me! I said to the kid "please don't point at me It's rude." His mother turned around again and yelled "he's just a little kid. He can't help staring and pointing." I told her I'd said hello to him and smiled, which she had seen.
Then she told me I was rude. She said "I'm giving you an apology now" and "he's too little to understand" and walked off in a huff. The cinema attendant saw it all and said "I'm sorry, you must be so tired of that happening".
As we walked around the shopping centre, I kept coming back to the kid and his mother. She was so rude, I told Adam. Maybe I was rude too? That kid was embarrassing. The mother's response riled me. How can I keep letting these encounters make me feel so powerless, when I encounter them a lot? I couldn't stop thinking about it.
I hate these situations. I hate it when kids single me out and make everyone look. I hate it that kids are sometimes scared of me. I don't want anyone being scared of my face. I never know whether to launch in and explain or invite questions (Stella Young was good at this). And I hate seeming rude for speaking up when I'm uncomfortable.
He is just a kid, he does needs to learn. These encounters are teaching moments, and I'm a teacher. But it's tiring and I often feel powerless to a kid much younger than me.
Sometimes kids are cute and curious and I know what to say immediately, other times they are rude and their parents say nothing. I think encountering rude kids takes me back to my childhood - memories of being taunted and stared at then have stuck with me well into adulthood.
Perhaps a kid hasn't encountered different looking people until they've seen me? Maybe a parent hasn't prepared themselves for diversity? And I can't parent someone else's child.
Encounters like this one at the cinema remind me I'm always learning, just like the kid is. It's a lesson in tailored responses, diplomacy, thinking on my feet and approachability. I second guess my responses and feel ill-equipped. All the writing I'll ever do can't prepare me for a shouty, pointy kid in the cinema queue.
(Image: small female child wearing white top amd orange skirt, pointing upward. There's a rainbow drawing coming out of her head. Text: "Lessons in kids' curiosity" plus my blog URL.)