My son was diagnosed with autism over 10 years ago.
We’ve been through so many public humiliations that not much really ruffles me anymore.
Yesterday morning my friend Beth shared a post on Facebook that really grabbed me.
It was about a mom who had a kiddo with ADHD who was reprimanded in Walmart by a stranger.
I remember those days.
I remember them well.
But it’s been years since I was truly hurt or offended.
So imagine my surprise yesterday afternoon when something fairly shocking happened to Zion and I, just a few hours after I read Beth’s post.
Zion loves the Goodwill store.
Well, actually he loves Disney movies.
And Goodwill always has scads of them.
For a buck.
So every so often we go in and he picks a few out as a reward for good behavior.
He thinks he won the lottery.
And I spend 3 bucks.
So yesterday as he was picking out his 3 favorites, a little boy who was probably about 5 years old sidled up next to Zion.
I tensed up a little, for fear that they were both going to try to seize the same movie.
But Z just looked over at the kid, pointed to his face like he always does to a stranger, and says “Hello baby, how are you?”
(Sidebar: Z refers to kids smaller than him as baby.)
The kid just looked at Z and didn’t say anything.
So Z says again, while pointing, “How are you?”
About that time, the kid’s mom scurries over, gathers up her kid, and rushes away.
I didn’t think much of it at the time.
Once Z had his movies picked out, we headed over to look at the jeans.
Of course Z kept walking because he saw the toys.
As we rounded the corner, that same kid was in the toy aisle with his mom.
Z let out a little squeal and said, “Hello baby!”
This time the woman actually muttered the words “oh no“, and then once again scooped up her kid and left the aisle in a hurry.
I probably would have thought nothing of her jogging off both times as though someone had ripped a loud fart, had she not muttered those words….oh no.
Oh no? What does that even mean?
So okay, now… I’m hot.
My blood was boiling.
It took every ounce of my strength not to chase her down, lecture her for 20 minutes, and force our kids to be friends.
The only saving grace of that moment is I’m fairly certain Z didn’t catch on to the woman’s ignorant behavior because he was too busy obsessing over the Buzz Lightyear doll.
But honestly what upsets me the most isn’t this woman’s stupidity.
Because regardless of how that woman acted, Zion isn’t contagious.
If you get too close, the autism doesn’t rub off.
But unfortunately, ignorance does rub off.
It is acutely contagious.
That little five year old was shy…but he was completely oblivious of Zion’s autism.
But in another few years, that kid is going to be just as ignorant as his mother.
Going to school with our children.
And treating people with special needs like they have a disease.
Hey lady, 1950 called. It wants it’s mindset back.
Zion starts junior high on Wednesday.
Just a few years ago, I thought he would never go to a mainstream school.
Yet, here he is.
Picking out notebooks.
And paying insurance for a school-assigned Mac book.
Suddenly my little boy is a little man.
He is bright and funny and sometimes maddening.
But he is the love of my life.
And I can’t bear to think of anyone scurrying away from him.
Kids were plain awful to those who were “different” when I was in junior high.
Please trust and believe I am already nervous about bullies and jerks.
So running into their mom at Goodwill didn’t help any.
If you forget everything else I’ve ever written, please just remember this:
Your kids learn more from your actions than anything else you do.
Words aren’t remembered.
Presence and actions are remembered.
I could have chased that lady down in Goodwill, asked her what her problem was, cussed her out, and throat punched her twice…(and trust me, I did all that in my head) but it would have solved nothing.
She would have still left that place a backwards minded fool, and I would have felt awful 10 minutes later.
And both of our kids would have been emotionally wounded in the process.
I have to remember as a parent every single day of my life, that Zion learns more from my actions than he will ever learn from the actions of others.
Bullies and jerks will always exist.
The challenge sometimes is keeping the mama bear at bay and not acting like one myself.