Dear Mom of the Boy at Costco Whose Head My Kid Smacked Yesterday,

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.

Something like:

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.

Humbly Yours,

Another Mom

  33 comments for “Dear Mom of the Boy at Costco Whose Head My Kid Smacked Yesterday,

  1. Missy Poppenger
    April 7, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    I am so very sorry. I can only imagine how frightening this was for every person involved. I will especially be praying that somehow this Mom can find it within herself to understand. Bless your precious heart Megan you truly are anointed by the Lord. “For such a time as this”Esther 4:14

    • Susan
      April 16, 2017 at 12:08 pm

      Your not JUST another mom, you are your sons world. I have a grandson whom turns 16 in 15 days and is a very similar boy to your son ‘global development delay’ , non-verbal and as strong as an Ox who grabs people. Being Grabbed By a 3 year old is completely different to being grabbed by a 15 year old nearing 5’10. My daughter and son-in-law have very little respite help and goodness knows what will happen once he becomes an adult. Keep the faith.

  2. Barb
    April 7, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    This is making me bawl. I’m so sorry that it happened. I have been both moms in this situation. And the embarrassment and shame burns. And the anger burns. But eventually both subside. The sting of that moment for the mom and her kid will subside, and I hope it will for you, too. God bless you.

  3. Jenni Lawrence
    April 7, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    I have neither adequate advice or condolences. Just know that my heart aches for you. That, and I think you are wonderful.

  4. Megan
    April 7, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    I love this. I remember one day being at Costco with my sister’s daughter who kept walking right in front of people and their enormous carts. I tried to help her focus on things that would keep her out of their way, but I got some exasperated, noisy sighs and all I wanted to do was tell them that she may look completely normal to you but she has high functioning autism and she doesn’t understand (or even notice) why you’re bothered by this. Or, I remember a stranger making their annoyance with me known the day after I miscarried a second trimester baby and was walking around in a fog of my own. It just made me realize why we HAVE to be tolerant. We have to give people the benefit of the doubt. The great majority of us are doing the best we freakin’ can. Your life is a kind of messy masterpiece that makes us all stop and remember what we are really doing here. Thank you for sharing it in such a real way. We named one of our sons Holden after Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye because we wanted to inspire him to be real, authentic, not “a phony.” That’s what I love about your posts. Authenticity to the point of pain. Much love!

  5. Kelly
    April 7, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Megan,
    I’m sorry for that devastating experiece. You write beautifully. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Tiffany (Hogle) Davis
    April 7, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    Your whole blog should have a “this will make you cry” warning. But like, in a good way.

  7. Marianne
    April 7, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    By reading your blogs, I’ve come to be a lot more patient in different circumstances I’ve found myself.

  8. Lisa
    April 7, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. Thank you for writing about it. Stories like this remind me to keep my empathy turned on no matter what my first reaction to a situation may be. Sending love your way.

  9. April 7, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    There are special needs moms and then there are SPECIAL NEEDS MOMS. I just want you to know–from one SN mom to another–I bow down to you. Bless you. 

  10. Ann R
    April 7, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    I am sorry Megan, this is beyond unfair. I have no doubt that the mom’s initial reaction that you saw probably quickly switched to some level of understanding as she processed the situation and realized you were doing everything you could.

  11. Jen
    April 7, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    Thank you for being vulnerable. Your ability to be honest here helps me be a better mom and friend and woman at the store. Very few know what it feels like to do what you do every day. Your words bring my out of my own head and life and remind me to be vulnerable and honest, too. I love you!

  12. Ashley Richards
    April 8, 2017 at 12:00 am

    Megan,
    I’m so glad I saw your post on a friend’s page. Bless you and dear Jack. I heard about a friend with an autistic son, who went to Costco, and in line he began to have a melt down. No one offered to have her go in front of them in line, so they just had to wait and go through the check out with her son throwing a tantrum. She was so humiliated because everyone was looking at her like she was a terrible mom. Her story, like yours, made my heart break. I can only imagine the feelings you must have on a daily basis. I’m so grateful for your willingness to share, because now I feel like I look for situations like that at Costco, or wherever I may be, so I can be someone who jumps in to help. I hope I am somewhere where I can.

    Megan, I see you differently. I see you as someone that the Lord could entrust one of His most precious souls with. I think you are an elect lady and mother. And Jack, and others like him, are celestial beings among us. But I’m sorry that each day brings difficult situations, and an endless amout of energy on your part. Please don’t ever feel like you are not enough. You are more than enough.

    I think that mom went away remembering what you said, and I wonder if she wanted to track you down and tell you that everything was okay and not to worry.
    I wonder if she wanted to wrap you in her arms and tell you that you were doing such a great job.
    I wonder if in the car is she explained to her son how special Jack is, and how he has a mom who loves him dearly and cares for him every moment of every day.
    I wonder if she told her son how much the Lord loves Jack, and that we need to be watching for these precious souls among us.

    These are things I would like to have done if I were that other mother. These are things I tell my boys, and how vitally important it is that we watch and care for these special individuals.

    One day Jack will see all that have you done for him, and all that you have endured. I can’t imagine how sweet your relationship with one another is, and will be.

    Love you Megan & Jack.

    • Haley
      April 14, 2017 at 10:05 am

      Ashley,
      This is such a magnificent response! It resonates deeply at the soul level and I hope it is how many would feel and respond. With just a moment to recover from perhaps the surprise of the unexpected, I hope we would respond so graciously and also teach our children to be understanding. We are all that “other” mother at one time or another. Thank you for articulating it so beautifully!

  13. Chris Crowe
    April 8, 2017 at 7:12 am

    Megan, your posts are remarkable, as is your resilience. Thanks for sharing your experiences and insight with us.

  14. Kerri
    April 8, 2017 at 8:48 am

    So much love to you and to Jack. Thank you for your authenticity.

  15. Cliff Harris
    April 9, 2017 at 6:31 am

    Thank you for sharing this much me t in time with us. Brings to mind a powerful bit of what wisdom from Cinderella’s Mom, “Have Courage and Be Kind”. There is aage advice for all of us as we interact with one another. God Bless You and your son.

  16. April 9, 2017 at 9:34 pm

    Man. Thank you for writing this. I. Can’t. Even. Imagine.

  17. Carol R.
    April 11, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Hi Megan, I have been following your blog for a couple of years now and I’ve wanted to write you more than once. First of all, I am the mother of a 35 year old son who is autistic and intellectually disabled. My son is profoundly mentally disabled. My life and that of my son’s is very different than yours in that my son resides in a home that is not the family home. Back in my early twenties when my son was born and we discovered that his life was going to be very different than what we envisioned for him, the thought was “no one is going to take care of my son, but me”. There is some stigma around placing a child with special needs in a place other than at “home” with family. For his first few years, I was adamant about this and although his life was disruptive to us as a family, we persevered. By the time he was 5 years old, it became apparent that even though we had some home health care for him, that his needs were becoming beyond my ability as a mother to handle. Remember, this was back in the 80’s and caring for a special needs child in Utah at that time was almost unknown territory as far as services. Or at least the level of services available. A decision was made to place him at the Utah Developmental Center and I was beyond myself with grief that my baby boy would not be with me and that someone else would be caring for him. It was a very rough time for me. What I learned, was that without that objective outside help, my son would probably not be functioning at the level that he is today. I learned that sometimes, circumstances in life are such that we have to let go of perceived ideals or expectations and actually look at the reality of life as you know it. In all the years between then and now, my son has flourished. Keep in mind, that even though my son lived someplace else, as a family we were and are still very much involved in his life. We just gained another extended family with staff members, health care professionals and roommates. We all made a move to another state and he still resides with peers similar to him and actually getting ready to move into an apartment with a roommate and 24 hour staff to care for them both.
    I know you love Jack beyond measure and I know you love ALL of your children beyond measure. I’m sure you have thought of this before and maybe pushed it aside, that Jack living at home isn’t working. The older he becomes, the stronger he will get. My son is incredibly strong and can do serious physical harm when he becomes non compliant and angry. I’ve asked myself this a lot, “at what point does the safety of others in the family, outweigh my son’s need to be home”. I, myself am saddened because due to behaviors, I can’t take my son out into the community very often at all. It is what it is, I tell myself. As a family, we do activities with him at his home and he seems to be okay with that. I am in no way trying to be offensive, so please don’t think that I am. I would never purposely do that to another special needs mother. I think that people think this is God’s plan and that we must “endure” the trial so to speak and gain the blessings of having a special needs child. Of course, we must be good parents and continue to nurture our child, but that can be done while others who are more capable handle the day to day teaching and supporting. There are so many wonderful options now for those with special needs. Being with peers like him offers a unique perspective for him to engage with others, he can be taught things that perhaps, me as his mother, is not objective enough to follow through with. Or, just too tired to do over and over again. I’ve watched my son be happy to see staff and the peers he lives with. I’ve seen him go get my car keys so he can go “back home”, to where he feels is his home now and that’s okay. It was hard at first because he will always be my baby boy, but I know it’s a transition for him that makes me happy. It’s been a growing experience for all of our family.
    You are amazing and so is your husband and other children. You love Jack so much and that is very evident in your writing. I love to read your blog. I love the raw and emotional edge to your writing. Your honestly is amazing. I wish blogging had been around when I first started this journey of special needs parenting. So many times I’ve been reminded of myself when I was younger and I admire you so much. Having a loving and supportive husband and father is truly wonderful. For us, unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Keep on loving and advocating for Jack but just remember, it’s okay to say…”we need to change things”. Much love and admiration always!!!!

    • Jessica
      April 14, 2017 at 9:04 am

      Thank you for sharing your story and perspective. Sometimes outside help is best.
      The longer I parent, the more I realize that this is a big old lesson in letting go.
      Hugs.

    • Tonya
      April 14, 2017 at 10:19 am

      I *love* this comment as well as the OP. I, too, am a mother with a divided life between my severely mentally disabled oldest child (20-year-old daughter) who lives in a care center and her two younger brothers at home who both face challenges with processing disorders. I don’t know what “normal” is! After experiencing many melt downs myself I try to be extra aware and compassionate with parents around me in public places who are dealing with a child’s difficult behaviors. I have a small tattoo on my right wrist with the name “Éleoş” which is the Greek goddess of compassion. It reminds me that everyone has a story and that most scars are hidden in the heart. Kindness is the greatest virtue in my book. Much love to all you moms who continue to get out of bed each morning and survive another day. <3

  18. Amy Rn
    April 14, 2017 at 8:24 am

    What beautiful words. I have no experience dealing with autism, and because of this, I will now try to be more sympathetic when I see it in public. I can’t imagine how hard it must be.

    On another note, would you share where you got your beautiful green dress pictured?

  19. JR
    April 14, 2017 at 8:50 am

    I just loved reading this story. I am also the mom of 3 kids with varying diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum…and I always feel so alone, and like nobody gets it or could possibly understand.

    Bless you for getting this message out there for others to read, and to help others understand.
    We as mothers need to be more supportive and helpful to one another – and we get so into our own lives that we forget that we are hear to lift each other up and not tear each other down.

    I look forward to more stories of kindness and happiness and hope after seeing this!

  20. Mark W.
    April 14, 2017 at 10:20 am

    Regardless of where one’s child is in terms of functionality, when one finds their self thrown into the center ring, it is really hard not to wish for something closer to normal.

  21. Terri Farley
    April 14, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    I saw this on KSL and can only imagine how difficult it is to have a strong teen aged child who struggles with this kind of disability. I am a special educator who has worked with many children on the autism spectrum and can only imagine what it is like for family members to deal with the challenges 24/7. I remember years ago, i was on a ‘red eye’ flight to Hawaii with my Mother and sister. I was looking forward to getting some rest and hopefully a few hours sleep. It was a very full flight and no empty seats. A Mom with her teen aged son sat directly behind me. He was very agitated and throughout the flight she tried to calm him. He screamed and kicked my seat the entire flight. I really felt for her, but did not believe I could offer assistance to help calm him as this likely would have set him off further. The lady across the isle looked at the scene and laughed until she cried. I remember thinking that I was probably the best person on the flight to be seated directly in front of him, as I understood the fact that the Mom was doing all she could do to try to calm her son.

    I do not have answers for parents who constantly struggle to do the best by their children. I can only say that observers should try to walk in their shoes a day and cut them some slack.

  22. Pam Bean
    April 14, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    I’m so sorry your entire family is going through this trial. Prayers your way.
    Please tell Jeff, Hello. I used to work with him at Utah valley.

  23. Roxy
    April 14, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    I had tears in my eyes as I read this. This has been me and my daughter many many times.
    You are not alone, thank you for sharing and reminding me I am not alone!

  24. Gord
    April 15, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    Have had that basic occurrence on many occasions. The degree varies from disgusted glances, to comments “he should not be allowed in public, and to those that keep you up at night as you relive them.

    Have had people shout to get that R-word out of here. At which point bringing up how offensive that word is does not help.

    We do as much as we can humanly do to avoid behaviours that could impact others. If we never go out how do we expect the kids/adults to know limits. Watching for clues to make sure we can head off any situation. ScannIng like a Ninja looking for any triggers. Quick aisle changes to avoid the slightest potential issue.

    I can’t apologize enough when it happens. I don’t blame you for being angry. If there was anything I could do to fix it I would. Saying he has autism likely means nothing to you. If there was a way I could somehow indicate how much planing went into this trip today. Social stories, PECs, dry runs in the house, other times we have been out when as bad as this was it was an improvement

    All this just to do something u do on a whim without incidence.

    I promise to do my best but, there are days when it is not enough. Likely you u have them as well but, not as dramatic or anywhere near as often.

    Hopefully this will reach the woman in Costco. Hoping her child is fine. Hoping we call end up with more patience and compassion

  25. Tracy
    April 16, 2017 at 10:40 am

    I to walk in your shoes…nobody understands unless they themselves have a special needs child ….crying is how i cope in the shower, making dinner, trying to sleep at night i know all to well the hell we go thru …because “God knew i was strong” now thats a joke

  26. Christina
    April 17, 2017 at 1:37 am

    Dear Mom of a child with autism I understand what you’re going through my son has completely changed after having neurofeedback he destroyed everything in my house my car and after 30 + sessions of neurofeedback he’s a completely different kid we’ve lived your life however my son is younger and I found a treatment that works for him without medication… I wish you the best of luck it is so hard people don’t understand what you’re going through but I do and I’ve been there

  27. Lisa
    April 17, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    God bless your family 😊

  28. Mary Nunn
    April 17, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    I read so many stories of other mom’s here with similar struggles and so many comments of those expressing such empathy. I thought as I read here that surely one of these must be my friend’s comments. This is a friend I once was close to years ago who had a son the same age as mine. The difference was the autism among his many other severe mental and physical disabilities. The worst thing I remember was all the various seizures he experienced that would affect him in so many ways; such as having loss of teeth from the fierce grinding of teeth or the unexpected falls, even though he basically had to wear a helmet most of the day for protection. The helmet didn’t always protect him from injury however. I look at my son who is now in his 30’s and they have both grown very tall (her son is over 6 feet 2 inches and both are very handsome, and muscular (the tonic seizures will often cause this) and I think how differently our paths have been in this life, for I know she has sacrificially 24/7 provided care for her son and it’s not ever been easy like it has been for me. Just to love him when he never could express love , and keep him healthy. My son has been deployed numerous times, has several college degrees , is married and has a full time job who has mostly the same struggles of many young adults on balancing everything in this life and feeling exhausted. His challenge now comes with PTSD (post traumatic stress) and a mild TBI (traumatic brain injury due to IED in Iraq) after the deployments *but he still does not rely on me for his care and it’s the wife who helps him during the night with the bad dreams/nightmares of war. I think of this amazing mom that decided that she was going to do her very best and commit everything to provide the best life for him however challenging or difficult it may be and try to expose him to some sense of normalcy along the way. That is courageous and an example to us all! -Blessings to all!

  29. Heather Evans
    April 18, 2017 at 10:32 am

    This is my life everyday with a fifteen year old, non-verbal, aggressive son with Angelman syndrome. I sometimes sit at home and cry because I can’t go anywhere. Or when I get respite and get out I cry from guilt that I left him home. Or I attempt to attend holiday functions and dinners with friends and family only to find myself wanting to curl up in the fetal position because of sheer exhaustion from chasing my son around trying to keep him from hurting someone, breaking something, or eating everything. Thank you for helping me not feel alone with your blog!!

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