"Did a bug bite him?"
"Is he allergic to something?"
"Is he - is that - what is that?"
"Ooh, ouchie! A spider bite?"
And this is where I stutter, and mumble something about 'kinda like an allergy' or 'he's not contagious' or 'not a bug bite'. And then I stumble over my words and try to omit certain ones which might possibly cause alarm or make you uncomfortable (disease, disorder, medical condition) all while explaining this complex thing in simple terms in 12 seconds or less. At second 13 of explaining, one of two things will happen:
1. The person's eyes will glaze over as they internally curse themself for ever asking in the first place, or
2. They start to give advice.
With option 1, I am left feeling like an annoying jackass of a mom who blabbers on and on about their child when the person was just trying to think of something to say to be polite.
With option 2, I find myself frustrated because I know the person is genuinely trying to help, but at the same time I know they are usually talking out their ass.
But it's hardly an option to have him in long sleeves all the time, to hide his spot and avoid questions. And besides, someday we'll have to explain it to HIM...so he can answer the questions others ask him and understand what this thing is that affects his body.
But hell if I know HOW to explain it. Which is why I mumble and stumble and feel like a spazz. And I also do my son and the person asking no justice, because they leave with no better understanding of why his arm has a huge red spot on it. But eloquence is not really my specialty, especially in cases where I am feeling put on the spot and maybe a teensy bit protective of the situation.
Do I OWE it to you, stranger in the store, to answer your actually-sort-of-nosy-but-totally-benign question about a spot on my son's beautiful sweet arm?
Do I HAVE to come up with something succinct and detached in response to your sad face, little old lady who probably doesn't need to be touching my baby anyhow?
Is there a response that succeeds at being short, direct, sympathetic and factual, while all the while assuring YOU, dear stranger or distant relative, that you are not in danger and my son is not contagious? And also, something that will assure you - what with your suspicious eyes and their furtive glances to the other exposed arms and legs and faces of both kids - that I didn't burn him with a cigarette, pinch him, hit him, or otherwise mar my beautiful child's perfect little arm?
And then I think...so what? So what if I don't know how to respond when someone asks? If I don't have a whole disease pared down to an 'elevator speech' that succeeds in not scaring you, nor embarassing me?
Everything about parenthood is a learning curve. It's just that I, like all parents whose child is brought to this earthly life facing any degree of challenge outside the ordinary, am having to feel this out like I am wearing blinders. When you ask me about my son, I measure my words against the weight of your expressions, gauging your pity by the angle of your frown and your confusion by the depth of the furrows in your brow. And for a second I am tempted to scrap it all and just start responding with, "It's nothing. He's fine."