Experience leads you to certain levels of human empathy.
What level are you?
Today I asked my daughter if she wanted to go get pizza and then go to Barnes and Noble when I got home from work.
She was very excited as we don’t get out much during the week. Especially if I don’t have my rock of a husband with me for support.
Outings don’t always go as planned in this special world of ours and it is to be expected.
I put on my imaginary Special Needs Mom hat and faced the challenge head on.
I picked up Maya from home and then we picked up Liam from his behavior school. Liam came running out to me all smiles as he always does and then his teacher gives me a short recap of his day.
All was seemingly going as planned.
We got in the car and I asked Liam “Do you want to get pizza?”
He said “Yes!”
Clear skies ahead.
We walked into the pizzeria and to the right by the register was 3 refrigerators of soda. This is Liam’s Kryptonite. It can stop him in his tracks and flip his world upside down, and that is exactly what it did.
I let him go over and start his bottle organizing while I ordered our pizza.
I let him organize for a minute or 2 more and then tried to redirect him. I was able to get him to pick my soda and walk to a booth but then the screaming and crying started.
He would stay and organize those bottles all day if he could.
Now, what is a Mother to do?
I can’t let him stand there and keep the refrigerator doors open.
This is where my initial question comes in.
What type of human are you?
As I sit there trying to calm my son, asking him to take deep breathes and counting to 10 with him, as I asked him to touch his nose and head and ears, what are you thinking?
I know I am thinking of calming my son so my daughter can enjoy a pizza night with me.
I know I am thinking, I hope I am not ruining everyone else’s pizza night.
I know I am thinking, I want to say sorry to the employees.
I know I am thinking, why can’t I help my son, what am I doing wrong.
I know I am thinking, if I walk outside he will not be able to learn in this moment and I might never get him back in.
What are you thinking?
Are you thinking I am a terrible Mom who is too nice to my son and that is why he won’t behave?
Are you thinking, take that kid outside so the rest of us can enjoy our meals?
Are you judging me?
Are you judging my son?
Are you putting yourself first?
Have you had an experience in your life that has given you the gift of empathy.
You see, I never know the company I have in these situations and there is no way for me to tell.
I can feel the energy in the room shift but I can not bring myself to make eye contact.
I have to focus on my son and there is no room for apology or explanation.
I decided to let Liam organize a little more and I told him “We will count to 60 and then all done.” He responded “17” so that was the number.
Liam proceeded to organize while I slowly counted to 17.
He picked another soda and though we didn’t need it, we brought it to the table. This is a pick your battles kinda situation.
He cried at the table a little longer until I got my phone out and put YouTube on and then the pizza came.
He calmed down and watched his PBS kids intros (yes, just the intros) while I cut his pizza for him.
I still could not look around the room.
Which human are you?
Are you thinking, the only way for her to calm her kid is to give him the phone.
Are you thinking, I am so glad she was able to get him to calm down.
I know not everyone understands Autism. You can’t if you haven’t lived it.
What I ask is that you give parents the benefit of the doubt. That you realize that 5 minutes of screaming felt like 20 minutes to us. That you feel our frustration over yours. That in your booth, that you can calmly eat your pizza in, you just give me 5 minutes of your relaxation so that me and my daughter can enjoy 10 minutes eating our pizza out together.
To realize this night is much more to us than you realize.