“Why YES, I DO supply ear plugs to people when my son starts screaming in public!”…(and other things I should have said)

In my ideal world, I would always go to the store when my children have just eaten, are well-rested, and are full of cheerful smiles and sunshine.  My older son would helpfully walk right next to the cart, while my younger son would happily sit in the cart, giggling about how thrilled he is to be shopping.  I would be care-free and singing happy little songs while strolling through the aisles and getting everything on my list.  Then, we would get to the cashier, I would remember to give her my coupons, my older son would point out how unhealthy all the candy is next to the cash register and mention that he wouldn’t even dream of asking me to buy it for him, and my two well-behaved children would smile and everyone would look at them and say, “Look at those angels” as we skip out of the doors holding hands to find a rainbow outside waiting for us.

Okay, so the rainbow might have been overkill…but the point is, the above scenario will never happen to me.  EVER.

In the real world, I take my kids shopping (we are regulars at Target and the grocery store) after I have worked a full day and they have both had a full day of school.  They are tired.  They are hungry.  They are whiny.  Keegan ALWAYS has to go to the bathroom while we’re there (I’ve come to the conclusion that he stores it up all day, which I used to do in elementary school), which makes Easton even crabbier because we’re sitting there waiting for him (and all I can think about is how he probably won’t wash his hands).

And Easton…my dear, sweet Easton.  He quickly transforms into crying, crabby Easton the second we walk in the door.  I call it SSA.  Severe Shopping Aversion.  I used to always make sure I had a snack for him in my purse, but he stopped eating anything I offered (again, there will eventually be a whole separate blog about his food issues).  In his ideal world, I would take him out of the cart and say, “Run free, my child!” and he would look at the way the light reflects off the tile floor throughout the whole store.  This is a world that will only exist if I don’t ever need to actually purchase a single item.

In the toy aisle at Target once, Easton started screaming (for those of you who have not had the pleasure, his scream is ear-piercing).  The smallest thing can trigger his screaming, such as his brother touching the handle of the cart.  The woman next to me in the aisle audibly gasped, looked a little disgusted, and said, “Well, his scream could break glass.”

Believe me, I am not in denial of the high pitch and the decibel level of his scream.  However, I would never even think of saying something like that to a mom about her child (I might THINK it.  Not say it out loud).  It rubbed me the wrong way.

After she said it, I did something that I regret to this day.  I SAID NOTHING.

Even though, what I wanted to say was, “Oh!  You heard a scream?  That is truly incredible.  Usually only dogs can hear his scream.”

I have been asked by a stranger, while at one of our favorite bar/restaurants where Easton was making a fairly loud, but very HAPPY, noise because there was applause going on over a drawing taking place, “Do you supply ear plugs to everyone when you’re out with him?”  Offensive?  Not really.  I know he’s loud.  Unnecessary?  I think so. Would you ask a woman who is out with her ugly boyfriend if she supplies blindfolds to surrounding tables?

We were in the (very crowded) Apple store.  My husband was looking around and I had the kids at the little table they have set up with two computers with child-friendly games on them.  Easton likes repetition of sounds.  He was tapping repeatedly on the keyboard of the computer.  I’m used to these types of sounds he makes, but I’m not oblivious.  I’m always very aware if something he is doing is inappropriately loud in public and I do my best to get him to stop.  In my opinion, this was NOT a loud sound.  It was just repetitive.  A woman came over to me and said, “Um…excuse me…do you mind? He’s driving me crazy.”

Again, I said NOTHING.  I picked him up, told my husband I would be walking around outside with him because he’s driving one woman crazy…and I walked through the store to leave, with him SCREAMING and thrashing around in my arms, and about 40 sets of eyes on ME.  And NOW he was being inappropriately loud and obnoxious for the whole store to hear, thanks to the one bitchy lady he was driving crazy.  What people don’t understand is that I can’t just ask him to stop making those repetitive sounds.  He doesn’t like being in stores at all.  Tapping on that keyboard was the one thing he found to keep himself calm and happy.  He’s also non-verbal.  I can’t sit down with him and have a conversation about it.  “Easton, that lady over there doesn’t like that.  You need to stop” would have sounded like “Easton, blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah.”

What I wanted to say was, “If I don’t let him do this, he WILL scream, which I’ve been told is loud enough to break glass.  Which sound do you prefer?”

That SAME day (I would classify this as an “off day”), after the Apple store, we met a friend at a restaurant for supper.  Easton had a complete meltdown while we were waiting for our table.  These meltdowns happen with zero warning and no logical reason.  Screaming, throwing his snack that we were trying to use to keep him quiet (ha!), kicking me, hitting me. I KNOW people’s instincts are to stare when a child is screaming like that.  The reason I know this is because I used to do it too.  Let me give you a quick glimpse into the mind of the exasperated mother dealing with that screaming child: It’s been a REALLY sucky day and all I wanted to do was sit down and eat a meal.  I see you staring at me, I hear the whispering.  I want to crawl into a corner right now.  You probably think my child is spoiled rotten because he’s not getting his way.  You have no idea what I’ve already been through with him TODAY.

I used to stare.  I used to judge.  Now, when I see a frazzled mom with her screaming child in public, I don’t get all judgy (I don’t think this is a word, but I have added it to my vocabulary) – I feel empathy and compassion.  I don’t stare, but I do occasionally look her in the eyes and say, “It’s okay.  I’ve been there.”  I have, indeed, had someone say this to me.  I’m not lying, I wanted to hug her.

I left that restaurant with Easton before we were even seated.  I told my husband to stay and eat with his friend and Keegan.  I got a little emotional on the way home, not because I didn’t get the damn brisket I wanted at Famous Dave’s, but out of frustration that I don’t have the luxury of sitting my own child down and having a conversation with him to calm him down or tell him we don’t act like that in public, like I would have been able to with my older son at that age.  There is no calming him down.  Also, I was embarrassed that I was that mom with the screaming child that everyone was staring at.  AND THEN…I realized something.  I need to cowboy up.  I need to face the challenging moments, not care so much about what other people are thinking about my son or me, and MAYBE even put someone in their place just ONCE.  (I have decided that “LOOK, bitch…he has autism” isn’t very productive.)  Something more along the lines of what I saw on a t-shirt online: “Maybe if you keep staring at my son, you’ll cure his autism…and then we can work on YOUR social skills.”

I’m not trying to be preachy.  I’m just giving a glimpse, because I’m learning new things every day.  One of the most important so far: NONE of us know what anyone else that we come across in a given day has been through in their life, in the last year, in the last month, in the last DAY.

So…my piece of friendly advice: Please try not to be judgy.

Also…I AM going to have the guts one of these days to actually respond to someone’s rude comment.  And then I will most certainly blog about it.

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6 thoughts on ““Why YES, I DO supply ear plugs to people when my son starts screaming in public!”…(and other things I should have said)

  1. At a teaching conference in Denver, I went to a workshop on autism. After the 2 hour class I still don’t even begin to understand autism. However, the woman teaching the class had a son with autism and said that her way to deal with “judgy” people was to keep a stack of business cards with her that she had made up and she’d fling a few out to the group of bystanders while her son was melting down. The business cards said something along the lines of ” I’m not a bad mom, my son has autism” and then she included a website that had information about autism.
    Anne – I’m sorry people are judgmental, keep your head high. Your optimism is stronger than their negativity.

    • Another one of my friends actually told me this exact same thing. I’m guessing you two went to the same conference. I LOVE this idea and I will be looking into it. Thanks Mary!

  2. I remember the days when I cared what strangers in a store thought about as Hailey would fuss, find anything and everything to tell you she wanted you to do a different way, kick, grab store items and throw them in the cart, cart stuff out of the cart to th floor, hit her sisters for even looking at her when she didnt want to be looked at, rushing to avoid the toy section so we wouldnt have a “Please Mommy can I have it” repeated and screaming meltdown throughout the entire shopping event…ect, ect. I went to an Autism support group and those business cards were handed out in packs of like 20. In short they are a win, win. You have not only let others know you are doing your best, but its also a bitch slap to those who judge before their brains have had time to process the situation and heck they may even learn to go about their merry way and not make the mistake again. Not a word said. I myself express my thoughts much better in writing, so I would prefer this method, if i still cared, that is. =) Your a good Mom, dont let anyone judge you any other way.

  3. oh, and if you do the business card thing will you PLEASE add a little line on the back along the lines of “Didn’t your mom ever teach you it’s rude to stare?”

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