Yesterday when I went to the supermarket, on the way into the store I saw a family with a child-lead on their probably 2-3 year old daughter. My first thought was, good for them, protecting their child. Second thought was, well maybe this child is autistic. Honestly I had to stop myself. I guess as autism families we tend to see autism or autism-like situations in everything we do and everywhere we go. But that was not how it always was for me. In truth, I am not sure that an autism only view of the world is what is best for everyone, especially my sons.
I remember when CM1 was about 2 years old and we lived in New York City. Anyone with a toddler knows that they decide to run when ever they want to and it is up to you to chase them. They are babies afterall and are totally unaware of danger. Nowhere is this fear demonstrated more than on the very busy streets of NYC or in the very busy stores of NYC as well.
I had worked for a child-interest magazine before I became pregnant. One of the more interesting things they did was let parents know about useful products that could help them with their children. There happened to be a new child-lead product, one you put on the child's wrist and then put on your wrist. Looked less like a dog-leash and you could hold the child's hand if you wanted or let them run until the elastic pulled them back. I have to tell you, as soon as CM1 was able to run, I bought one of those leads.
Now remember at this time we had no idea that CM1 was autistic. In fact, we would not know that he was autistic for years to come. This purchase was just the purchase of a concerned parent who also felt it was just fine for her child to discover his world without having to fear all the time as well.
Well I put the lead on CM1 one day and went to Bloomingdale's. I went to the shoe department to look and try on some new sandals. Since there were not many people there that day I left CM1 run on the lead he was having a good time looking at the shoes. He was smiling and laughing and enjoying his freedom. I was having a good time too, not having to worry were he was and not being afraid the he would run off and hurt himself.
Well, one of the salespeople yelled at me. "Is that a baby or a puppy?" I suppose it was her way of trying to tell me I am a bad parent.
(Interesting how so many strangers in NYC seem to think its their right to tell you, you are a bad parent. I can't tell you how many times that happened from just walking along the streets, strangers questioned why your child is dressed one way or the other, did not say please or thank you enough or your child even had the audacity to say "no." I was even yelled at by cabbies because they decided with all their uneducated foreign background, that I was not being appropriately motherly. Interestingly noone ever yelled at or berated hubby when he was out with the children. Misogyny involved? You betcha.)
I yelled back at the buttinsky salesbitch," He is a very well protected child."
Needlesstosay that salesperson left the floor at that moment and someone else came over to help me. Was I pissed off. You bet. Did I buy anything from that shoe department? Not on your life and honestly I don't think I have ever set foot in Bloomingdale's again. That's when I started to frequent
Saks. Don't worry I didn't give up shopping or consumerism.
Did I say anything to the management. No. I figured there was no point. Someone who was that stupid would find herself out of a job pretty quickly. You don't go around insulting people and expect them to purchase items from you. In fact in NYC retail you don't last very long if you are stupid, especially in a store like Bloomingdale's.
The truth is that this episode taught me something very important. You never do know what is the other person's story and you never do know what they are dealing with. I also learned that the people who had the most to say about how you raise your children are usually people who have no children and hence, no real idea what they are talking about. People really do have too much to say about things that are none of their business.
Back to the supermarket yesterday...
I find it interesting how now that we have been immersed in the autism world for so long I constantly see everything through the lens of autism. I am not so sure that that is a good thing. In fact I know it is not a good thing. Autism is in reality such a small part of the world-at-large and of existence. It does not touch everything in life. It just touches everything in our lives that is all.
I have come to the conclusion that autism obsession is not healthy... not emotionally, not spiritually and not intellectually. Sometimes we need to remove ourselves from this bubble of autism and view the world with a wider more comprehensive notion. I know it is not easy to do especially if your children are very effected. But I realized that it is something we all need to try to do, for ourselves and especially for our children.
I never learned whether the child on the lead at the supermarket was autistic or just a typical well-protected child. I think in the long run it doesn't matter. First, that particular situation was not any of my business. Second, and more importantly, I realized that it was actually time for me to review how I see the greater world and thereby fix my own outlook on life so that I can properly help my youngmen grow, progress and discover who they are going to be one day.
Until next time,