I was at a cash point this evening and a mother and her two children came and stood behind me in the queue. They were all chatting happily about where to go for an after school snack.
Both the children looked at me with curiosity. I smiled at them and the younger child smiled back but his sister looked nervously at her mum and said, “Why does that woman keep moving?” Her mother didn’t respond or even look at her. The girl persisted, but her mother still ignored her question.
I decided to explain and told her that my brain sometimes makes me move and make noises I can’t stop. I reassured her it was nothing to worry about. The girl seemed to relax a bit and her brother smiled cheerfully. But their mother looked anxious and throughout the exchange she didn’t say anything to me or even look at me.
While some adults find children’s questions uncomfortable, I don’t. Neither do some parents, and I have a lot of respect for adults who overcome their own self-consciousness or worries to make sure their children understand whatever’s puzzling them. I was on a bus a while ago and a mother got on with her daughter. The mum looked round a few times before saying to me, “Sorry, but I need to ask what’s wrong with you, because my daughter’s asking and I want to give her the right information.”
One of my favourite explanations came from the father of a small child whose son was pointing at me saying, ‘That lady’s being silly.’ He said, ‘She’s not silly, she’s expressing herself.’