Is it fair to judge a parent based on one interaction you witness?
That’s how my son looked today during his birthday lunch. Others staring and the waitress pretending not to notice. He’s laying on my leg, wrapped up in my sweater in the middle of lunch.
Let’s rewind to how our morning started and then you can decide to judge me as a parent.
Today’s his birthday. I woke him singing the birthday song. Then we cuddled for a few minutes while discussing what he wanted to do on his special day. I read birthday wishes to him that came from some via social media. We discussed who these people were since most weren’t family. Oh hell, most weren’t even people he has ever met. I then made him the breakfast he requested: scrambled eggs, waffles, and strawberry milk.
We then went to one of the trampoline parks nearby. This one has an American Ninja Warrior area. He couldn’t wait to try it. He tried and tried on the course several times. His persistance was admirable. He used to give up when things were hard. He used to throw fits when he couldn’t do something. Today, he didn’t. Even when the workers would try to tell him “You just have to hang on tighter.” If they only knew how hard that was for him. That hand strength. That upper body strength. The lack of coordination and flexibility. But he tried. And he was almost successful.
After 90 minutes of the trampoline park, we ventured to lunch. We went to one of his favorite places, Olive Garden. His Dad met us there from work. Immediately after sitting down, he started to complain about being tired. Then he was cold. Then he was too cold and too tired to eat. He wasn’t hungry. He laid in the booth the whole lunch.
Started out all smiles while he laid in my lap, but eventually that went away too. He was tired. Or was he? After all the energy he exerted at the trampoline park trying to conquer the Ninja Warrior course, I wonder if he was coming down from the stimulation. I mean, 90 minutes of constant climbing, jumping, hanging by your arms, swinging, and falling over and over again was extremely stimulating for him. Maybe he needed a break and a restaurant with all the smells, sounds, lights, and new people wasn’t a good place for the break.
Once home, he relaxed for a bit on the back porch where it is quiet and calm. Then he decided to play his Xbox for a little bit before we had to take his brother to camp. When we returned, he wanted to play outside. We were out for about 20-30 minutes before the kids had to go to eat dinner. So, we came inside and played a good ole fashioned game of Memory. After that, we worked on his Minecraft LEGO set.
As I sit and type this, he’s at his music lesson. He was happy & transitioned from one activity to another without any issues. You’d never know he was the kid bundled up in the booth at a restaurant. You’d never know he hadn’t eaten his lunch.
Please think about the many faces you see here. Did I deserve to be judged because of the incident in the booth today at a restaurant? Do any of us deserve the stares or the whispers we get in public because our child isn’t acting like you think our child should act? Think about it. That was one moment in our entire day. One. In that one moment you chose to judge me and my child because in that one moment he was showing a part of himself. A small part of himself that dominates our lives daily. His SPD is becoming more manageable, but it still exists. Every time we are going anywhere I have to think of every possible thing he may need and how he may respond. And because I tend to his needs, I’ve been judged. I’ve been judged by family, friends, and complete strangers. Just because my child doesn’t look like he has special needs doesn’t mean he doesn’t. This is real. And in that moment I was what he needed me to be. I don’t need to apologize for that. I won’t. Not to anybody.