I am really sorry.
Really, really, truly sorry.
I would’ve liked to have given you a better explanation than calling out, “I’m so sorry. He has autism” as I ran after Jack.
He does though. This is what autism looks like, particularly when compounded with developmental delay, a rare syndrome, the inability to communicate, and, sadly, another ear infection.
I had a helper with me. We thought we could do it—expose Jack to a brief trip to the store to pick up his favorite Buffalo Chicken Bites. We didn’t know he was sick until after everything went berserk.
The moment when my son whacked your son, unprovoked, on the back of the head, came minutes after Jack bellowed in the checkout line, literally threw our groceries on the conveyor belt (I caught a tub of soup mid-air), climbed ONTO the conveyor belt, and then pushed brusquely past an old lady to land his open palm on your child’s recently shaved scalp.
You looked so irate. I don’t blame you. I would’ve been angry too, before my life became one perpetual fight-or-flight response scenario with my special-needs son, whose response to the world is usually aggression.
I would have liked to look your son in the eye and apologize to him. But I had to grab my large, tall disabled teen and hold on to him as we speed-walked to the car.
Please, Fellow Mom, know that your livid response was matched by my own mortification. In the car, as I wrestled Jack into the backseat and pressed him against the door so he couldn’t bash his head against the window, the weight of public humiliation once again descended on me.
We drove away a few minutes later and I said to myself, “We are STILL doing this. We are still a circus freak show anytime we venture into public.”
I also said, inwardly, “What’s left for you, Jack, when we literally can’t take you anywhere?”
After spending the next hour and a half at the pediatrician’s and then at the pharmacy, I wished I had your number so I could text you and say……something.
Is your son okay? Are you okay?
Or, I’m sorry that my child’s behavior added trauma to your shopping trip and your overall afternoon.
Or, Before you condemn me and my enormous red-haired nonverbal teen, please know that the unpredictability and uncontrollable outburst you saw today are my daily life. This is every day for us, and I can’t fix it or escape it. Thank you for making an effort to understand.
Or, Parenting is hard, amirite? It feels impossible when my big, violent son is physically strong but mentally low-functioning and it’s Spring Break and we don’t have any respite programs available and he needs to do something and we thought we could try going somewhere. Anyhoo, bless you.
Or, I forgive you for hating me and my child in that moment when his disabilities manifested in aggression toward your innocent son. I’m working through forgiving myself for feeling like an inadequate embarrassment of a woman.
Or, That smack on your kid’s head doesn’t define who we are. I wish I could show you the rest of us. I hope your day improved vastly.
I don’t have your number, though. Just the look on your face, burned into my memory.
The only thing that saved me from my own personal hell following this incident, dear Mom at the Costco, was this passage in a speech that I read before I fell asleep, closing the book on a true contender for The Worst Day:
“May I express a word of gratitude and appreciation to those many who minister with such kindness and skill to …. [disabled] people. Special commendation belongs to parents and family members who … care for their own children with special needs in the loving atmosphere of their own home. The care of those who are diminished is a special service rendered to the Master himself, for “inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these…, ye have done it unto me.” (James E. Faust, The Works of God, October 1984).
Fellow Mom, when I help my son live every day of his limited life, even though I’m not nearly enough of a mother in so many ways, I am showing Jesus that I love Him.
When you teach your son to forgive and accept others who are so blatantly imperfect as we are, you are showing Him the same thing, too.