The plan was to take the kids to the Splash Park in town. The one that just so happens to be RIGHT next to the community pool. I went over the plan several times with both of my kids, but especially with Emma who has autism. She was a day away from turning 11 years old. She understood. Or so I thought.
She was so excited on the way there. Ecstatic really-- bubbly and happy. As soon as we arrived and sat down at an outdoor table to apply sunscreen,that all changed. The crying began. Through tears, she demanded we go to the pool. Emma sobbed. Asked, pleaded, whined. She screamed. She put her head on my shoulder. She never does that. I put my arm around her and quietly spoke in her ear, trying to calm her. I repeated our "plan" and explained again how we couldn't go to the pool that day. And I prayed that I could get her through this meltdown without us having to leave.
There was an elderly woman sitting on the opposite side at the table. When we got there to the park, I had asked if there was room for us. She said we could sit there. While Emma was screaming, our backs were to this woman, but I could hear her sighing. A LOT. Then I heard her speak to another woman who had just sat down, saying she wished all that crying would stop and she didn't want to hear it anymore. She said it a few times. I turned my head so I could make eye contact, and I asked her to please stop. I explained that Emma has autism and that she was upset. The older woman told Emma there was no good reason to cry and to look at all those "big kids" out there not throwing fits. Emma's yelling got louder then. I turned again to the woman and told her to stop-- that she was not helping and I can take care of my daughter. The woman CONTINUED to talk AT us, while I was whispering to Emma and trying to diffuse the situation. She went on and on about how my daughter needed to be a "big girl" and listen to her mother. I had had enough, so I turned again and not - so - politely hissed, "Zip it!" I made the motion of zipping my lips. That finally did it. No more commentary.
My daughter wasn't being a brat. She was having a lot of trouble with reasoning. In her mind she NEEDED to go on the diving board, and there was no other alternative. The plan? What plan? I knew how to handle it.
Her meltdown subsided a bit later and she was able to have some fun with her younger brother and the little girl I babysit. One kind woman struck up a conversation with me. I was grateful for that. For her making me feel like we weren't lepers. All other eyes were trying not to stare.
It had been a long time since we had run into a person being openly rude, especially one so vocal. I understand the woman was of an "older" generation and a certain mindset of how children should behave. But the comments were unnecessary. Her opinions were best kept to herself. She did not know us. I told her to STOP several times.
That day still plays in my head. And it's hard for me to understand.
Strangers, if you see us out and about and Emma is having a meltdown, 1. Ask if you can help ME. I will be appreciative. 2. But if I say No Thank You, please try to understand and be respectful of that. 3. Don't stare. 4. Don't talk about us. We can hear you. 5. Don't judge. She is not a brat. And I'm not a bad mother.