I am not a confrontational person by nature, but today a guy is lucky to be left standing. My son Tristan who has autism is noise sensitive, and he cannot tolerate the cries of his new baby sister Ayla. Anytime she makes a sound, he has a complete meltdown. He has a sensory overload with many sounds, and baby cries seem to put him over the edge. When I am at home, I tell him to go to his room to his quiet place if he cannot handle it. When I am not at home there is NOWHERE to run and things can get really tough.
Today was a really bad day. Tristan was already tuned into my depressed mood from the sudden loss of a family member the night before, and his baby sister’s cries really affected him. I was on my way home from speech therapy and my truck was running on fumes. I stopped at a gas station to fill up, and by this time my baby is screaming bloody murder, because she hates to ride in her car seat and she was tired. Tristan had lost it too by then, and screamed at the top of his lungs with alligator tears running down his cheeks and his feet kicked the back of my seat in extreme frustration. As a mother, I was at a loss of what to do, because NOTHING ever seems to help, and all my son screams is “hold the baby, nurse the baby”. Unfortunately, I could neither safely while I drove, and so the wailing continued.
I pulled up to the pump, opened my navy blue pickup truck door and fumbled for my debit card. As I started to pump my gas, I hear a deep man’s voice yell. “Hey, lady! Why don’t you quit beating the shit out of your kids? They sound like you really took it out on them!”
A bit shocked, I peek around the pump to meet eye to eye with a grey haired middle-aged man pumping gas into his bright red Audi. “Excuse me!” I snapped back.
“You heard me, lady!” snarled the man. My blood started to boil as I stared the man down. The shrills and cries of my children echoed in the background like a red-hot fire engine screaming in my head. “Stay calm!” I told myself. This man obviously is an idiot, and he clearly did not take the time to notice my exhausted, unangered demeanor as I stepped out of my vehicle. I was not a mother who just finished beating her children, but a mother who felt beaten by her children.
“Sir,” I stated, not that he even deserved that kind of respect “I have a newborn baby crying in my car, and a little boy who has autism. Right now he is on sensory overload, and has lost it.”
The man stared at me, and then shot back a smart ass look, and said “Then tell the boy to shut the fuck up!”
At that moment I wanted to be Inspector Gadget and give him a strong right hook with my go-go-gadget extendo ten foot fist. I confirmed this person was really an idiot, and nothing I said would change his way of thinking. He was a lost cause. I went back to pumping my gas as lots of other customers stared at me. The man’s wife who was outside when he started to shout at me was now in her car, her head cowardly down. Another woman who had been pumping next to me glared at me as she drove off.
Luckily, I have not dealt with too many people like this idiot. When Tristan was younger, and he expressed more severe behavior, I became a hermit and hid from the world. I was too embarrassed and ashamed as a mother to take on the world. As a parent of a child with autism or any kind of special needs, we already know THAT screaming child we see maybe is not bratty and maybe is not beaten by his mother or father. Instead, the child could be overwhelmed by the surrounding environment, and lack the ability to process and verbalize the experience in socially accepted ways.
Our society needs to put on their compassion caps, their oral filters, and judge others much less. I am a mother who slaps on a happy face when I am out and about, and I tell everyone I am fine, when instead inside me there are times I want to curl up in a little ball and cry like I felt today. I am not sure how we teach others how to be more considerate and less judgmental, because when I became a special needs parent, it opened up my eyes to not judge simply by appearances. The same could be said more generally for many things in life. We do not know what goes on behind closed doors or what reality is for other people. The next time you see a woman step out of her vehicle to pump her gas, and you hear the screams of her children, at least be compassionate and concerned enough to remain silent rather than be an egomaniac numbnut who gets thrills from bullying others.
Autism awareness is definitely worth attention. Here are two good pages on the topic:
What would you have done differently in this situation? I wished my husband had been there. The man probably would not have done it then, but if he did, one look from my husband would have made him pee in his pants and shrivel like an uprooted thistle in the sun. How can we help society or teach people like this man to think before they speak?