Yesterday, while at the park, I noticed a woman with a child just about Jp’s age. The first thing that I saw was that she was in helicopter-mom-low-hover mode. She kept looking around, as if to see who was watching, with this extremely strained smile on her face the whole time.
She was apologizing every few minutes to everyone around her.
You see, while her son was beautiful, tow headed with curls, he had some atypical body movements that I picked up on right away. He seemed to pay little heed to what she was saying and continually was using the equipment in ways that it wasn’t intended. His social cues were nearly non-existent, barreling into other kid’s faces with no cognition that it wasn’t appreciated, and he made little noises that were slightly “off”.
I was looking at fellow special needs mom and one that was still very uncomfortable in her own skin.
I cannot explain it any better than to say that I could read the look on her face like an old, familiar book because I had felt every emotion that she was feeling in that particular moment. She was a mom that just wanted to take her son to the park like every other mom on the planet but felt slightly out of place amidst all of the seemingly perfect moms with Starbucks cups and designer strollers (you really would have to see our neighborhood park in person to believe it, it is like something straight out of a Parenting magazine article, probably the cover for that matter) with their perfect children in adorable jumpers that actually listened, albeit imperfectly, but could, at least, understand. Children yelling for their moms to ‘look’, ‘push me’, and ‘come here’!
My little heart went out to her as I watched her divert and apologize, divert and apologize, over and over again.
I have so been there. When Jp was younger, nothing -absolutely nothing– that I said verbally got in. I would run around like a madman, doing my best to keep him out of the way of others, off of the bottom of the slide that other kids were actually using correctly, and having to explain how to take turns fruitlessly and met with tantrums. I was always full of grand apologies coupled with fleeting moments of embarrassment and those times where I wouldn’t know whether or not to explain why he was doing what he was because the other moms just seemed so annoyed with the fact that I couldn’t “control” my own child. Even in that exact moment that I was watching her, Jp was standing in the middle of a group of moms, doing his usual awkward social standard of hanging out with strange women (Hello? Kidnap me, much?), and interrupting their afternoons. Though, I am pretty lucky in one respect: my kid is a stone cold cutie, and while it may be the most uncomfortable thing ever for me…the other moms seem to think it’s sweet and funny now.
For a moment, it was kind of a tough call for me. I wanted to say something to her. I didn’t want her to have to feel the way she was obviously feeling in that moment with another mom that understood standing 5 feet away. It is a lonely place, at times, being around other tiny children that remind you of how different your child is. At home, they are your baby, and that is all that there is and all that you know. But out in the world…you can see with crystal clarity where they lack certain characteristics that other children so glaringly have. While I am a million miles away from that feeling of isolation (thank you, blog) I could plainly see that she wasn’t yet. Though I didn’t want to just bombard up to her and blurt out, “Hey, couldn’t help but notice that your child was different, you wanna be besties for life?”
So I had to play it cool and do my best not to offend her in the process. Who wants someone to out-and-out say that they noticed that your child is different? Is there a nicer way to go about it? Being new to this territory, I just handled it like I always do in meeting new people (and I have never been renowned for my tact)…
I took a breath, walked up, and spat something out (Lord, what, I don’t remember) and hoped for the best (Is that not how everyone does it?).
As soon as I introduced myself and Jp and told her about our issues, that woman opened up like a dam breaking after a storm. Don’t get me wrong, she was really nice about it, but you could tell she was just grateful to have someone to talk to about her son that understood terms like Speech Pathology, ABA, OT, ECI, and expressive language. She told me that he had Fragile X Syndrome and that they had just recently found out for certain. He has incredible speech difficulties but their pediatrician just kept telling them not to worry that he would catch up (what is with Pediatricians and saying that?) so she is still just finding her footing as a mom with a label. She hasn’t been in Austin long -as she just moved back from Florida (weird, huh?)- and no one in her family knows anything about special needs children so she’s processing this all alone with her husband. She says she is mostly met with pity to which I replied, “For what?!”, and that made her laugh for the first time since I saw her. Pity is the one thing you never, ever show a brand new special needs mom. She needs strength, she needs encouragement, and the one thing she does NOT need is pity.
She is still in that phase where she keeps him home all of the time and he rarely interacts with other kids. Which I totally and completely understand. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. So, I told her that Jp and I would love to have some play dates with them! Both of our rambunctious boys love pools and splash pads (both right around the corner, too) so I think that they will get along just fine. Besides, I feel like it is part of my journey to help someone who is still struggling out, where and when I can, and pay forward all of the love and support I have received here, right? Who, out of all of my lovely mommies, wouldn’t do the same?
As she was trying to write down my number by our cars, her son was becoming agitated and kept trying to dart into the street (he is a total little handful) and so I scooped him up, pulled him into me backwards really tight, and bounced him.
He calmed right down.
She was aghast, “How did you do that?!” and all I could tell her was that it worked for Jp when he was younger. Then I showed her how to hold him like that without making him feel trapped. Even if I never hear from her again, at least I got to teach her one trick that I have up my sleeve, so that is a wonderful feeling.
I may not know a ton yet about her son’s disability but I do know that I can’t watch another mom struggle or see a child not have a friend. Maybe that is another one of my superpowers, huh?
I'm just living minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day.