Today, my son Antonio has a school holiday, so he is home all day while I do the other kid's therapy sessions. My son Marcos has Autism and has two hours of intense Applied Behavior Analysis therapy a day. My daughter, Delilah, has visits weekly visits from Pediatric Occupational Therapy and an Early Intervention Infant Program. You can click the links (they open in a new window) if you want to know a little more about it all. Or you can ask me. Any way, back to the story...
Well, needless to say, I had all the kids with me while I ran errands. I hit Target, Petsmart and USPS. By the time we made it to USPS, Marcos had enough of errands. He was all over the place. Jumping in place, spinning and aggressively patting the stroller (aggravating Delilah in the process). I was fine. All in a days chaos...
Until this older lady came in behind me. Obviously in a hurry, and obviously irritated by my situation. You start to notice when people judge you and your parenting skills. Naturally, I suddenly realize exactly how many times I have said "stop it," or "come here," given the stinkeye, or gritted my teeth and sharply whispered some stupid empty threat like "Knock it off or I'm going to throw away the Wii!" It's almost like I can feel this lady's eyes bore into my head...
So this lady is headdrilling me and I'm starting to get annoyed, because not only are all my kids on hyped up OMGLETSGETOUTTAHERE mode ... this woman is being a jerk about waiting in line. Huffing and puffing in the back of my head, shifting her weight and clicking her teeth when my kid bounces around. So, she finally gets the nerve to speak:
"I bet you'll be glad when that one's back in school, huh?"
My heart dropped. I felt like her words hit me like a ton of bricks.
I spun around, whirling one kid around with me, and looked this woman dead in the face.
In my head, I had all these bitchy defensive mom things to say:
"I bet you're glad you had boring kids, huh?"
"Nah, his mom is awesome. Your kiddos didn't fare so well, eh?"
"He just ate 20 Snickers and washed them down with Go Go Juice."
"If you're going to watch him dance all day, you could at least tip him"
I could have said any one of the thousand things they teach me in therapy. I could have rattled off some stats about how he needs sensory time. How sorry I was that she was uncomfortable. I could have. But I didn't. I just smiled and gave a weak little chuckle. I was exhausted, and for some reason, those words hit me hard. On the walk home, I honestly answered her ... while pushing a stroller, balancing three drinks and holding my bouncy Marcos' hand for dear life as we crossed the street, praying I would be able to react fast enough if he decided to run off. I answered her. I honestly and truthfully answered her ... and got teary-eyed.
"No, I won't be glad. I have sent this sweet boy to school before. He came home with unexplained bite marks, wet diapers and new habits. I had to fight tooth and nail to get him accepted into a "special day class" for kids with Autism. Kids like him. There was one teacher, and an aide for each kid. We weren't allowed to come watch class, or ask questions. No volunteering, no class parties or parades. No holidays, no class photos, no PTA. Drop your kid and leave. He learned to spit, bite people and scream at the top of his lungs in school. He rode the bus and hated the harness he had to wear, but loved the bus. He's going to be five in March ... and not that it's any of your damn business lady, but I am dreading it. I'm dreading the day he goes back to school with all my fucking heart."
The lady's comment wasn't even all that horrible. I've heard worse. But in that moment, walking across the street, in all my watery-eyed mess ... no one asked me what was wrong. No one offered to help while I struggled up onto the sidewalk. Not one of the ten people who passed me up took three seconds to lift the front of the stroller on that high ass curb. No one smiled. Notta friggen one. I'm not bitter, I made it through today. I'm okay, but you know what? The next time I see a mom, in these shoes ... I'm stopping. I'm asking. I'm smiling. I'm lifting that stroller. I'm helping. And I hope you do too. You just never know.
In all honesty, it just hit me like a ton of bricks to the chest today. Just, hurt. I'm sorry I wasn't my usual snarky little firecracker self, but ... I was just to tired to educate someone today. Maybe tomorrow. There's always tomorrow ... right?