Try to picture the scene. It’s the middle of September in 2001. The country is still obviously reeling from the attacks on the country. There is still a bit of fear and tension in the air about crowds and such. My son was four years old at the time and with his Autism, ADHD and all the issues that were still manifesting, he was quite the handful when I went out. I had no choice that day but to go to the bank. Bills needed to be paid and my late husband’s ridiculous control freak habit of handing me exact amounts for the bills to get money orders for each one was still in full force. *eyeroll*
So, there we were, standing in line. Next to us was the parent-dreaded “roped in” syndrome, where the barriers were designed to create a nice line for people, but for parents, they were horrible. If the children escaped, could you truly lift your leg over without needing surgery, or, if you had to go under, would you ever be able to stand up again? You would most certainly lose your place in the long lines.
The lines were moving along when I went into my purse to gather the envelope I had with the paper listing the amounts I’d need. I look up and my son is ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BANK. I truly have no idea how he got that far, that fast. KIDS. Before I could decide my plan of attack for getting out of the roped-in lines…BOOM, he reaches up and turns off ALL THE LIGHTS IN THE BANK. Security guard springs to life, people look around in a slight panic. Me: “Sorry…that’s my son…omgosh I’m so sorry, jeez, he ran so fast…” I was so terribly embarrassed! Enter the perfect parents I had no idea were all around me! “Maybe if she paid attention to her son, this wouldn’t have happened.” “Ever hear of a babysitter?” “I’d never let MY child get away with that!”
As I walked back to the roped-in area, a woman said to me, “Here, come back in line where you were. There’s no need to stand in line all over again.” There were a few grumbles about how I should have to stand in line again after my son “pulled that stunt”, but I did as she asked. It was a bit hard for me to stand in line, wallowing in my embarrassment and trying to swallow my terrible anxiety. The only time I ever got any relief from the abuse at home was when I got to go out and here was my short trek out that day turning into this. I wasn’t angry at my son, he was four.
The kind woman behind me, who was quite a bit older than me at the time told me that her children were grown, but she had quite a little spitfire in her oldest son. We chatted a bit as the line moved on and I told her that he had autism and I was still trying to figure everything out. She told me that I never would figure it all out. Her son had special needs too she told me, and she said she did it in a time when society took a much harsher look at children who were different. She put her hand on my shoulder, moved forward a bit and said in a very low voice, “You’re doing an amazing job. Don’t ever give up.” After I concluded my banking, I smiled at her and mouthed “thank you” on my way out. I was grateful to have my sunglasses on, because I was crying. As much as I was embarrassed by all the nasty remarks I got, her words of kindness sparked the tears.
I’ve never forgotten her or her kindness. I like to think I pass a little of it on from time to time. Telling the mother with three children in tow, trying to shop for groceries apologizing for her crying toddler, “Don’t apologize for your child doing what we all feel like doing a few times a day as moms!” or some other comment and a smile. It’s SO EASY to say something nice. Have I always been super kind or quiet when someone makes a snide comment? No, I have had my moments, but I wonder if that lady knows that she had a lasting impact on my life, eighteen years later.
Anyone else deal with mom or parent shaming? Memories of fun-filled times of absolute judgement?