Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dear Lady Who Showed Displeasure...

Dear Lady who let me know how shameful you thought it was to lift my seven year old boy into a shopping cart at the local corporate conglomerate super center,

Duly noted.  Believe it or not, I understand.  There was a day when I was like you, the mother of one seemingly neurotypical boy under a year old.

I knew what I was doing, too.  I portioned his steamed veggies into cute little piles on the high chair tray and delighted when he reacted one way or the other.  Having put off, along with adult beverage, lots of processed food, caffeine, over the counter medications for things like allergies, and things like shellfish and lunchmeat while I was pregnant, I had it all together.  This kid ate whole wheat bread, I made most of his baby food in my blender, and I devoured article after article about preschools, developmental activities, hours of television, food additives and preservatives, and all that stuff.

And you know what?  I have a confession to make.  In my self-proclaimed expert pride I might have done what you did.  I might have made my displeasure known, and that grieves my heart.

The thing is that there came a time when the cute developmental milestone emails began to smart.  The milestones my son hadn't hit or hit and then lost began to crush my pride.

Slowly, it was revealed that I am not in control. Control is an illusion.

As the providential timing of the revealing of Ryan's diagnosis loosened the grip I thought I surely held on my son's development, I had another boy.  As he grew, the milestone emails didn't matter like they did at the beginning with Ryan.  I just watched him grow.  Yes, I took him to the doctor for his checkups, I played with him, I was his mother.  But the milestones, the words, the walking, the eye contact... they fell as manna from heaven.

And they were savored, I can assure you.

Since then, I have received a diagnosis, been through countless hours of therapy with Ryan, endured what feels like an eternity of meltdowns.  I have seen that little brother of his and his little sister seek to comfort him, only to be screamed at and scared witless.  I have also seen them go straight back and try again.  I have seen them adore their brother, trying to do everything he does... and I mean EVERYTHING... because to them, he is not some random autistic kid in the store.  He is their hero.

Dear Lady, and I mean that, you had no way of knowing what we go through on a daily basis.  You had no idea that the cart gives Ryan a semblance of his own space.  You had no way of knowing the recurring nightmare I have of running through stores, through streets, searching for my precious boy.  You had no way of knowing that the cart keeps him safer.

If you had followed us through the store, you would have seen him at his worst.  You would have seen him hit his head and scream to look at toys.  You would have seen me warn him that he would have to calm before he'd look at toys.  You would have seen me pick the other two kids from the cart, sending them hand in hand with my Mama to pick out their dollar toy for being good while I stayed with my screaming, self-injuring little man.

You would have seen that I do my best, but as Ryan and I and Eric do our best, autism still crashes through and does its worst.

You would also, had you followed us, seen the encouraging lady who pulled Mama aside and told her to tell me she appreciated how I was handling things.

You would have seen him keep screaming, not getting his way, and you would have seen the lady who smiled as we passed her.

You would have noticed that she not only smiled, but turned to me and asked, "Autism, right?"

You would have seen the conversation that nearly had me in tears.  Along with the resource teacher who came out to the van with his aid after school, she reminded me that what I do is hard.  It isn't the same.  I need people who understand.

I have people who understand, and I am so grateful.  It's hard to let things go and sit and visit about it, but I do.

If you had been there last week at church you would have seen the friend who, when Ryan kinda crashed he and his sons visiting in the junior high CE room after church, stayed with me until Ryan calmed down and I managed to get him on the road to the van, offering help and understanding the whole time.

Dear Lady, I understand how weird it looked to watch me lift my 80 pound boy into a shopping cart.  Your displeasure didn't hurt as much as it used to.  I've had some time, you see, to realize that misunderstanding and sticking out in a crowd is part of the gig.  I didn't even cry the whole way home like I have so often when people showed their displeasure and shock at my son's behavior and the way we do things.

Instead, I saw the contrast between the people who need to know and the people who know.  And I want you to know that it's not just okay that you didn't understand.  It was a spurring to stay the course. It brought into focus the need to rejoice in the wonderful folks who do, even if they don't get it, love us and trust that we are doing everything we can.

Your misunderstanding of my situation also reminded me to pray for and work toward spreading awareness of the need for understanding and acceptance one moment at a time.  Not just for autism!  We are all different.  We are all created unique, and we are called to love and encourage one another, and someday, I hope you will see that.  In the meantime, I also hope that you never have to know what it's like to need to put your seven year old in a shopping cart to keep track of him.  Blessings on your boy and his development, and should he prove to be neurodiverse someday, I pray that you will find the peace that comes from knowing the Lord's sovereignty and providence.

Thanks be to God for Dear Lady, the Encouraging Employee, and the Empathetic Lady, and for the parts they played in my day yesterday.  And let's not forget everyone else who isn't afraid to be boldly, gutsily unjudgemental and gracious!

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of this post by my wife:


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