I was alone at the grocery store today checking out, when a man and his son got in line behind me. He asked me a question about one of my items, then we both went back to what we were doing—me using the self-checkout, him chatting with his son.
And then, from the corner of my eye, I started to notice things. I saw the way the boy was acting, I noticed his stims
, and I heard the way the father was talking to him, and it started to become clear to me that this kid had a developmental disability similar to my son Jack’s
. And I wanted to say, “Me too! Me too! We’re part of the same club!”
But of course I didn’t, because I think that might have been weird.
We chatted a little more, about the M&Ms the boy had non-verbally convinced his father to buy and the fruit that he was going to try to get his kid to eat first. (Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!) I smiled at them, and when I left, I told the boy, “Enjoy your M&Ms!”
“Say ‘thank you,'” the man said to the boy, just like I have said to Jack a million times before and in the same tone.
I had said, “Enjoy your M&Ms,” but what I really wanted to say was, “I get it. Your son reminds me of mine. Your son is adorable, and you are so good with him. I’m so glad I met you. I get it.”
I don’t know a lot of special needs families in real life, so when I run across one, I feel compelled to join them, to let them know that I am part of that special club, to acknowledge that they are doing a great job. But to do so would be to draw attention to the different, to call out the man and his son.
So instead I smile and chat with the parent. I interact, but don’t force a response, with the child. I don’t intrude, partly to not stress out a child whom I don’t know and partly to not make the parent feel exposed.
But what I want to say is, “Me too. I get it.”
Original DC Metro Moms Blog post.
Jean writes about Jack’s autism and oh so many more things at Stimeyland.