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.