Mom of autism or not, when you go to the mall and you have the double stroller, people look at you. Most of the time they look and smile at you and then they do a full inventory of who is in the stroller. Its at that point I try to brace myself for what is next to appear on the mom, grandma, teenager, dad, store clerk's face. It ranges from pity to disgust to finally disapproval.

Have you been there? Even with a typical child, have you been there? Has your daughter been sucking on a lollipop and green sticky-stuff is all over her face? Then you quickly crouch down beside her and wipe her face while making comments about how "oh! I had no idea you were that messy!" or if your child was sipping on a cup with a straw that they dismantled and was splashing around int he contents and is getting sopping wet? Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. This is a daily occurrence for us.

Zack is almost 4 and to prevent him from escaping our the first mall door marked for EMPLOYEES only, or into a dressing room with an old lady trying on some elasticized jog pants getting the shock of her life because my son loves to open doors- He stays in the stroller. Buckled in. Sure, his feet may drag on the floor if he doesn't use the platform and he may scream and struggle- but hey, the alternative is far worse for me and him.

Lets go back to the 'look' again. What is it with people? I've gotten so used to just smiling back but inside I want to say" so the f*ck what lady?" He is usually covered in some lollipop goo, or munching down pretzels or even eating cheerios. If I give him a snack in the mall I can go and have time to try on 1.5 pairs of shoes before a meltdown happens. He is a messy eater. Last night we grabbed pizza in mall. I kept both Izza and Zack in the stroller to eat because there were no highchairs. After getting our fill of the jaw-dropping stairs, the concerned 'eye-brows' and the side ways glances at Zack's perpetual moaning and hand-talking, we decided to move on with our vittles.

It was at this point that I met eyes with another mom with a double stroller. I looked up to see if she could get by the cosmetic displays at Macy's (not double stroller friendly- never mind 2 in the same isle!) As I moved our stroller aside I saw her look at me with a thankful look, she glanced down and her face went from happy to horror! I smiled back as I always do, patiently wait for the 'victim' to pass by and then I check out the scene that shook her to her core. It was Zack's face, he had covered himself in sauce from his pizza. Now, please mind you I had been giving him little bits at a time, not a whole slice. This was a cumulative effect on his part and he is typically a very messy eater. Well he had it on his fingers and he likes to move his hands around a lot in the air like he is giving some MLK speech to the imaginary audience in babbles and moans. ITs his style...

I took out my wipes, cleaned him up and moved on. Izzy was just as messy and dirty, she still had marker on her face from preschool and her pants were dyed purple from the colored sand box they have at school. But, she is typical. She got a "smile" from the mom without any problems. I hate when I go into a store and Zack is moaning, people turn as if to say " What is that horrible sound?" and then see Zack and "HMF" back to what they were originally yammering on about.

What kills me, is that if someone stopped, got down to Zack's level ( I do this myself with kids I don't know just because I love kids and love to talk to them- another thing moms's get afraid of- for the love? WHERE IS THE LOVE??) anyway if people took a second to give Zack some approval or affection or show interest in him, he'd stroke their face lovingly, smile back at them, or happy babble something that says he likes you.

I try so hard to make eye contact with the kids, not their parents. If their parents are human, maybe they will strike up a conversation and try to relate to another human being having another human being experience. But its the kids that love attention. Its the kids that don't deserve the frowns, the glances the looks and the HMF sounds. I will admit that Zack is 95% oblivious to people's reactions. I guess thats the good thing. He doesn't need anyone's approval. But for one second, moms of Normal kids, think of what you are disapproving of. Think of how little you give to people with your reactions and your stares and your "hmf" sounds. We as moms try to make our kids have a great life too. We try and make them feel secure and loved and accepted, even though they don't ask for or require these things. Why on EArth would you want to make a little boy like Zack feel like such an outcast and deny him love?

Next time you see Zack, can you just smile? It might affect him but it will do me good to see that people are more accepting and loving than they have been in the past. I will always look favorably upon your children.

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Apr. 12, 2008 at 7:26 AM

Well, I wouldn't want to deny him love! I don't know why anyone would. That's sad.

I'm trying to understand how it feels to be the mother of an autistic child. I've read many posts trying to gain comprehension. I probably never will totally grasp it. I hope it makes you feel better to know that, although I'm just one person, I'm TRYING to understand.

As for people and their disapproving expressions, I wish I had an answer of how to make them stop doing that.

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Apr. 12, 2008 at 7:51 AM Heck, I'd do more than smile. I'd give all the kids a high five or a hug! Some people are just so darn cruel anymore! They just don't stop to think. I do know how you feel. We get looks because Jake goes in a buggy at the stores, and he's really getting too big for them. You're right though, it's better than the alternative. Big Hugs to you Dina!

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Apr. 12, 2008 at 8:37 AM

Sending you and Zack a BIG smile!  Congrats for getting to the mall and actually eating!!!!!!!!!!!

I hope this finds all of you doing well.

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Apr. 12, 2008 at 2:56 PM Beautiful!

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Apr. 12, 2008 at 7:28 PM

If I saw you with a double stroller....I would probably look inside & if I saw your son with pizza sauce all over his face....I would probably laugh!!!  I have a 5 year old son who isn't autistic, but I wouldn't classify him as "normal"...I mean who's kid is???  If Zack was moaning...I'd probably think "what is that horrible noise", just like you wrote....but then I'd probably follow the noise & see your big, blue eyed, baby doll & forget the noise & let him touch my face.  Your kids are all beautiful, and I wish I were all the people in the mall.  I'm sorry that you deal with all that ignorance.   There are Moms of kids that aren't autistic that wouldn't judge you for having your 4 year old son in a stroller.  I hope & pray that those are the kinds of people that you run into & not the ignorant "know-it-all", Moms that you seem to run in to!!!!!!!  I admire the fact that you seem to fight for your son....he's lucky to have you!!! 


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Apr. 12, 2008 at 11:58 PM

wow you went to the mall with all the kids!? YOU  are so my hero! I as a general rule go only incase of emergency and usually go to places with carts!  I hate my double stroller! I wish I had been with you our kiddos couldve competed in the messy face/ hair contest...that is where it goes on Kurt on the fingers to the hair..repeat..repeat..etc

those moms who give the stares...well one day they will understand...I hope!  (((HUGS)))


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Apr. 13, 2008 at 11:39 AM

yeah i know how you feel.  Most of the time we're in the stroller too. Gianna never eats what everyone else eats and people are constantly criticing me and my husband (about her diet) (hello I wouldnt feed her the foods i do if she would eat if i starved her long enough, which is often the suggestion).IDIOTS!  Strangers usually arent the ones with the opinions that bother me, it is usually much closer to home.  I find the hardest thing is I feel inadaquate, and then i become angry with myself because I know I shouldnt feel that way.  my daughter covered herself in red crystal light not too long ago, good times lol...   hang in there and dont be afraid to put people on the spot a bit, for example if someone is starting at your kid cause they have pizza all over them, say, do you have a napkin, it allows the other person to help instead of staring at you like a jackass :)  take care! 

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Apr. 14, 2008 at 1:06 AM I don't know how any one could see Zack and NOT smile....

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Apr. 29, 2008 at 6:34 AM

I think if we ever ran into each other in a mall we'd be on the same page. It never fails that when we go to the mall Emmaleigh has a messy diaper and needs changed. She also hates the changing tables when we go out since hers at home is soft and cushy, so if I just get teh diaper changed and on without her getting stuff on her I call it a success and don't get to bent out of shape if she winds up back in the stroller with nothing but her top on because she refused to sti still long enough to get pants on.

She is perpetually sticky. I'm not even sure with what. But I never cease to amaze that the blue goo between her fingers. And her hiar is always full of fuzz from her blanket that she gets too upset wheN I try to take it out that I just giveup. And this isn't including that my friend has her trained that mall means chocolate chip cookie!

I don't have a child with a speical need and I can't imagine what that would be like. The worst thing we have ever encountered is goin shopping with my in laws who have a two year old. Eliza is very energetic and wants to walk and run everywhere so about the time she refused to stay in the shopping card and started playing little Houdini they got her a puppy backback harness. Occasionally the odd parents has said how horrible it is to put your child on a leash.

When my daughter gets to that stage there's  one with a unicorn. I intend to buy it for her becuase to Eliza her puppy is not a leash, he is INDEPENDENCE. She can walk where she wants do what she wants (she once unknown to us took a pair of sunglasses of a stall until the guy caught us to ask if she could pleas give them back!) and she knows when she wants to go for a walk that if she grabs her puppy we know that's what she wants.

But I'm sorry people look down on you. It must be hard.... But it does remind me to say something and not just look and think my thoughts hen I see difficult things. I saw a mom with her two boys on teh bus the other day and one was being onery. And I thought, how cute he is, but how onery and how stressed his mother must be. And as I watched, trying not to watch, I hoped that she didn't think I was thinking she was a terrible mother for getting frustrated for him wanting to stand on the seats and squirm away, when really I was thinking. Oh boy! When do I have to worry about this game!

Anyways I think I'm begining to get disjointed so. I'm out.

-- Amy

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