I knew it was coming. So, it isn’t a surprise. Funny how that doesn’t make it any easier. Having seen relatives raise autistic children, I knew the time was coming when taking our son out in public would become officially difficult. Up until now, I have been able to avoid the stares of others during my son’s tantrums. He was still a baby. Until recently, most people (including those who knew him fairly well) didn’t think he was so different than other toddlers. Many of them were still making the He’ll Catch Up, So Quit Worrying argument. But, as he is getting closer to three, it is becoming more obvious that he doesn’t talk, doesn’t play normally, and emits ear-piercing shrieks when life isn’t going his way.
I got my first Stares From People in Public Who Clearly Raised Their (Normal) Children Better Than Me the other day. We went for our weekly trip to Publix and, for the first time, the cookie that the nice folks in the bakery gave Callum didn’t keep him happy. He began to shriek. And shriek. And, just when we thought it was over, shriek some more. And they all looked up and stared. That stare that speaks volumes and says, “I’d tear his little butt up and shame on you as a mother for not having done it already.” I looked around, and then I knew. The days of blending in are over. We are about to become the family that is a pain to have around.
A couple of days later, my best friend Beverly arrived from Vermont. We hadn’t seen each other’s kids in over two years. We took them to a park. And Callum wasn’t happy. We took them to Wendy’s to lunch. And Callum threw everything within reach off the table. And shrieked for a chicken nuggett – pretty much the only thing left that he will eat. Yep, those days are here.
I’m not ashamed. But I’m sad. I’m sad that he doesn’t know the joys of playing with others. I’m sad that my four year was so desperately happy to have a playmate who actually played with her. I’m sad that I couldn’t sit down for a few minutes and enjoy my friend without following Callum around, who is always busy AWAY from where all the other children are grouped.
But then he found the hammock. I put him in it, and he just melted with satisfaction. And I got some cool pictures – the rare kind that you can’t ever seem to get with a child with autism. Ones with genuine smiles that highlight the little souls we love so, so much. So, for Thanksgiving, I am thankful for hammocks. Hammocks under canopy trees in perfect, breezy weather. And cameras available in The Right Moment.