Taking kids with autism into public places isn't exactly a fun or uplifting experience most of the time. People always seem to come through with stares, comments, or gestures that make me wish I could live in a secluded area and never venture out.
In general, I like people. I love talking to people, hearing different perspectives and experiences, and just interacting. However, I don't like being made a spectacle of or receiving self-righteous anecdotes about how "if that were my child...".
Sometimes I feel energetic, optimistic, and full of life. On these days I can let even kind of nasty comments roll off me. Other days, I feel like I'm on the edge, and all it will take to push me over is a mean look, a thoughtless comment, or a depressing thought. These are the days I generally don't take the girls anywhere, simply because I don't want to deal with the stress of a trip outside of the house.
Really, it is usually the small things that make my kids happy: car rides, snacks, water, TV, etc. Still, on some days it gets to be a bit much. A kind gesture or comment can help turn around a crappy day, while a crappy comment or gesture can ruin an otherwise good day.
I'm not going for sympathy; rather, I am sharing how by just being a little more open-minded or tolerant you can really impact another person's life for the better.
The other day I took Celest to run some errands with me after I picked her up from school. I figured since I just had her that it would be relatively easy to do this since she is more likely to walk in and out of buildings without lying down on the sidewalk.
Anyway, we went inside, returned some items, and then I went to check my account to make sure I didn't have any overdue items or fees. There is a copy machine next to the computer I went to use, and there was a lady making copies. Before I could stop her, Celest reached out and hit the big, green start button. I apologized and we sat down at the computer next to the copier. The lady continued to look at us, so I met and held her gaze. She kind of grumbled, "Isn't she a little old for that?" Automatically she implied that my child was a brat, I was an inadequate parent, and shouldn't I be ashamed of myself for allowing this to be?
I smiled at her, and said, "She has autism and is mentally retarded. Whenever she sees a button she wants to push it. I'm sorry."
Her expression softened, and she said, "That's okay. No harm done."
I'm glad that she was okay with things, even though I don't feel like I should have to explain myself. I'm really glad that I didn't start crying my eyes out at her comment, because I had been having sporadic crying fits for the preceding week. That would have been a bit awkward for both of us.
Anyway, I wish that people would just bite their tongues when it comes to parenting. Sure, you can bitch to your family or friends to vent about something that happened or someone's kids, but do you really need to criticize someone's child and parenting skills if no one is in danger?
I try not to let things like this get me down, but the stress of parenting children with special needs wears my patience and attitude thin sometimes. If you see a frazzled mom with a "bratty" kid, just don't say anything at all unless you are going to offer her help (if she appears to need it). You never know, it could be me, and you'll see me writing about it... ;) When in doubt, just be nice!