I clearly remember the moment it happened. I was at a four-year-old’s birthday party and was proudly watching my daughter as she danced and twirled around. It was one of those party places with a window that parents could look through if they wanted to watch their kids play while they sipped overpriced lattes.
Most of the other children were from the preschool my friend’s daughter attended, so I didn’t know the other mums, or them me.
That is when I heard it. Two women had come to stand beside me and were watching the disco. “Look at the pixie ears on that kid,” one said to the other. “They match her Tinkerbell dress.” My eyes scanned the dancefloor, searching for another Tinkerbell, but I knew in my heart they were referring to my daughter.
I felt a pang in my stomach as tears began to sting my eyes, and I blinked several times to stop them spilling down my cheeks. Thoughts ran through my head. I could turn and confront them, and cause a scene at a child’s birthday party, or I could smile and wave at my daughter, who was having a wonderful time, oblivious to the unkind words of a stranger.
Maybe I was being over-sensitive? It wasn’t the first time someone had commented about my daughter’s prominent ears. Maybe they didn’t view the term “pixie ears” as being derogatory. Later, when I would disclose to friends what I had overheard in a bid to find out if I had in fact overreacted, they would gasp and assure me I had been right to take offence.