Why I’ll Never Ask a Kid ‘What Did You Do?’ Again

hidden-faceI knew it was coming when he stepped onto the elevator. He took one look at my daughter and asked, “What happened to you?”

She reached up to move the tan flap on her forehead, revealing a wide mouthed scar beneath. “I got bit by a dog,” she said with a sigh.

She knew too where this was going. Usually they ask what kind of dog, if it was ours, whether she needed stitches, if she’s OK. They all come with genuine concern, if not a concern tinged with curiosity. The asker sees nothing wrong with asking them.

And I don’t blame them. I can’t.

Up until a few months ago, I wouldn’t have seen anything wrong with them either. I’ve probably asked them, or the equivalent, to countless kids countless times before. It’s just what we do.

But I won’t. Not anymore.

Not after months of my daughter being asked to relive the trauma of an attack by a dog she thought would be her forever friend over and over and over again because perfect strangers insist on knowing her story. She’s polite. Achingly polite. But she’s also exhausted. Like the person with the unique name whose heard the same bad joke about it 900 times, she’s tired of having to smile and nod so as not to be branded “difficult” or “rude.” She’s tired of being required to lay bare her nightmare simply because people are curious.

She waits until people are gone before her smile droops to a grimace, before she asks me, “do they have to ask me all those questions?” It makes me proud to be her mom and a little sad too.

Standing on the other side of things, I’ve realized in these past few months that what seem like harmless questions aren’t always so harmless. Sometimes they’re downright problematic.

What’s more, they aren’t really necessary. If you want to engage my kid, I can promise that she’s got plenty to say about anything but the scar on her face.

She’d be more than happy to tell you about that 100 she just got in math or let you know all about how she’s learning to ice skate in the hopes that she can join a girls’ hockey team. If you want to listen, she’ll tell you more than you ever imagined you’d ever learn about the world of Minecraft and the YouTube channels devoted to the topic.

I warn you, she may just talk your ear off about it all, because that’s who she is. The scar is not.

 

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