OPINION: Let's show some kindness to those less fortunate than ourselves

Ruth Davies with friend Kara

Ruth Davies, right, with her friend Kara, whose son attracts plenty of unwelcome comments from strangers. Ruth is calling for people in East Anglia to show kindness to people less fortunate than themselves - Credit: Ruth Davies

This past week has been gloriously sunny I’ve thought on repeat how lucky we are to be bringing our children up here in East Anglia with beautiful beaches, when most people only get to come on holiday.

No wonder the rest of the country flock here for a break, it’s flipping gorgeous and I love the buzz summer brings with happy faces holidaying.

I’d always assumed  we were a welcoming bunch to the visitors, noting when arriving on the train from London there’d be people falling over themselves wanting to assist with a bag or buggy. I hadn’t thought further than that, but talking to my friend Kara this week, perhaps there’s room for improvement or at least thoughtfulness.

Kara and I met up on Cromer seafront last week while she was mid-holiday and as I watched her family navigate just a few hours on the beach we spoke about some of her experiences, not just on holiday but in general, and I came to the realisation that just because we assume something is perfectly geared up for all needs, just because we think we are thoughtful, tolerant and understanding, we might actually have to put a bit more into it.

Kara’s eldest son Grayson is disabled and her experiences of ease and kindness are not what I had expected. At all.

Grayson, now 12, was a toddler when I first met him.

A 'SWAN' Kara told me, which means he has a “syndrome without a name”. This in itself is rather tricky as there is no definitive answer to the question she is asked often: “What is wrong with him?”

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This comes from strangers in the street, in the supermarket or on the beach - wherever they go.

Now Kara is more forgiving than I because I’d like to reply: “Nothing is wrong with him, he’s just different to you and how is it your business anyway?” but she says: “No Ruth, people are inquisitive, children especially so and we don’t mind explaining about Grayson if asked in the right way. Politely and with kindness.”

But it isn’t always that way, not by a long shot. She is followed around shops by people who peer and bluntly ask the question with no real interest or need to know. Baffling that other human beings could be so callous but that’s really the tip of the iceberg.

In a restaurant with her husband and two other children she was asked if she could stop Grayson making so much noise.

Grayson is a lively boy with lots to say, he doesn’t speak and communicate like most children but he absolutely deserves his right to  beand yet this other diner felt it was appropriate that he be silenced.

When Kara explained that no, she could not, the diner cemented her rudeness with: “Well you shouldn’t bring him out then!”

He’s not an animal. He’s a boy. Her child. Her family. How mortifyingly rude. Yet they are used to it and say as Grayson gets older it gets worse not better. Comments from the supermarket delivery driver like: “Cor, what have you got in there, a rabid dog?” are what they’ve grown to expect. I was astounded hearing that.

Kara’s other children are 10 and eight.

Her youngest is fiercely protective of his brother and these moments make him angry.

At the same time her daughter, a girl on the cusp of becoming a young lady, is torn between her love for her brother and also wanting not to be noticed in the way Grayson’s condition draws attention to them.

Kara tries to shield them from some of the comments and reactions but it’s not possible unless you batten down the hatches and don’t go out.

Something Kara and her husband Ash have decided to do in the past but not anymore. Life is for living and she wants all of her children to live it, she’d just like a bit of understanding and humility from strangers. She says: “We don’t expect everywhere to be wheelchair-friendly or geared up for Grayson and we absolutely adapt and make what is on offer work for Grayson where we can.

"We lift him if it’s possible, of course. It’s just other people’s attitudes that hurt and change the course of our day”.

Isn’t that truly awful and I did not expect her to be in our county on holiday and find similar yet she did. It’s opened my eyes and made me very aware that all families and all children deserve thought and actually, for some, a bit of dispensation. It doesn’t take a lot to offer a hand or make a difference positively rather than the other way around.

As Grayson becomes a young man of 12, an age he was never predicted to meet, Kara and her family struggle with so many things his lovely life throws at them.

They adore their son but it is hard work, even on holiday with a son who has hormones raging at an accelerated rate on top of all his other needs.

They don’t get a break. People rarely acknowledge this. Coming on holiday for this family isn’t as simple as packing up a bag of clothes and setting off.

They have to pack life-saving equipment for their child and travel without his safe bed meaning one of them stays awake with him all night as he fits and could stop breathing.

A holiday is never easy from the researching where to stay to the being here away from their set up at home but they do it because they want enrichment for Grayson and their other children, just like any other family.

The least they could be offered when here would be kindness, the kindness I know living in this part of the world should offer.

Think more, care more and be kind. It’s as simple as that.

Follow Kara and Grayson’s journey @raising_a_superhero on Instagram.

Ruth Davies has a parenting blog at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk