I'm So Proud of You Son

I don't get it. You want your special needs child to be treated normally and yet when they are and it doesn't go well you get angry.

That is what I wanted to say to someone who I encountered the other day. Let me set the stage for you. I will change the names to protect them.

A friend and I had wanted to put together some organized activities for our homeschooled kids. They are at the age where friends really start to matter and they just aren't getting that need met through church and other activities. We decided to start a Friday Fun Club. We do fun activities on Friday. My house is pretty big and pretty centrally located so my house is "it". On the third Friday we do a "parent led activity" and since it was going to be our first, I said I would lead out. I had a terrific activity planned--we were going to make pizzas and I was going to talk about Italy. Not because I love Italy, but because I love my homemade pizza and don't make it enough and it is pretty easy for kids to make. Then the day before I was in the MRI tube and while trying desperately to calm my racing heart and distract my mind from the fact that I was in a MRI machine yet again, I started thinking about the test that I should be making for my kids since we were coming to the end of our massive unit on the Human Body.

As I was thinking over all the experiments we had done, it hit me: these were perfect things for my kids to demonstrate and do with this bunch of kids coming over. Now most of the kids coming were going to be younger than my youngest so my kids would make great teachers. And there is no better way to learn than to teach something. I came home and presented this new idea to my kids. They were so excited (WHEW!). We went through the experiments we had done and they each picked a few they wanted to develop into a station. Time was against us, but we busted our bums trying to gather all the equipment necessary to put together a number of stations.

Chris (I'll just name him) was in charge of the tasting and temperature station. Chris is a very black and white kind of guy. If there is a rule, then there is a rule and don't go breaking it (just wish he would live by that all the time). For his station the kids were to taste sweet, bitter, sour and salty. He made the solutions and was using a Q-tip to apply the taste. Since it isn't fun to end with a bitter, salty or sour taste on your tongue, he also was in charge of sharing our very quick and easy treat: frosted graham crackers (YUM!). They were to get two squares and a bit of frosting and make a treat for themselves. But first, they were to ask their parent just in case there was some dietary reason they shouldn't be eating frosted graham crackers.

The other piece you need to know about is that instructions I gave to the parents before we broke up and went around to the different stations. I told them that my house was not baby proof so to please watch their children. I did my best, but I'm sure that I missed something. It would be wise if you walked around with your younger children and helped them in the stations as well as monitor their behavior. I personally didn't think I was asking too much.

There were probably six families in attendance and about 20 kids under 10 with another fix over 10 (my kids and my friends who said they would help my kids). They were perfectly behaved for their age and the parents followed them around and helped where needed, but for the most part my kids lead the stations. Now they didn't just do the experiment, but told the kids why what happened happened. (WOW! I must be a great teacher!!! They got it!!)

One of those parents was Susan (name changed) and her youngest son, Bob. Bob has many challenges in life, but none are visible. Bob was left alone for some time, but always in my eye sight. I saw him try to catch my puppy (the puppy went straight to his pen for his safety) and then pretty much ruin my oldest son's station (the oldest one doing this activity). Thankfully my son just dismissed him and let him play with the balloon (great job Mike--you handled him perfectly!). I'm not sure what happened with him in the living room, but I know Susan didn't go with him. I didn't hear anything break though--that as a good sign.

Then Bob went to Chris's station. He didn't want to do the tasting but didn't tell Chris this. He and his mom decided that they were going to have graham crackers and just took them. Chris told him he needed to do the station. As per our conversation before the kids came, Chris wanted the kids to do the station before filling their mouth with a spoon full of sweet frosting. He also wanted to make sure it was OK for him to have graham crackers. We know what it is like to have a child allergic to food and we didn't want to call 911 because someone didn't ask a simple question. He was very gentle with this kid and then Susan snapped at him. "When you have a child with needs you just go with it!" she yelled.

I turned to look what was going on and was shocked! She said it again. I very firmly told her, "Susan, you will speak kind words to my son." She then told me that her son had mental delays and that you just go with what they need, so something like that (not sure exactly because I was in shock!). Again, I firmly told her, "Susan, you will speak kind words to my son." I then looked at Chris who I could tell was biting back tears and as white as a ghost. His eyes were pleading with me, "Mom, I didn't do it, honest." I had to look away before the tears started as well.

I don't anyone but us has ever talked to him that way before. And this is the kid you don't do this to! I knew his heart was crushed. He lives for outwards approval and was getting it all day and then for Susan to crush him in such a harsh way.

She then tried to explain her actions to me, but I missed much of what she said because I was silently praying for direction because the momma bear in me was ready to rip heads off and spit out the bones! She quickly decided that she needed to leave. I didn't argue.

Now, I've interacted with this family on other occasions and this type of parenting is par for the course with this mother, but I was still in shock! I don't get it. You want your child to be treated as normal and then when that child is treated as such, you get angry? I just don't get it. Bob had nothing visible to tell my twelve year old boy he had a mental challenge. Susan didn't say anything to Chris that might have helped the situation before it turned ugly. She just yelled at my son when he was treated her son as he would any other kid in that room. You don't get crackers until after you have gone through the station. And I know Chris, he was doing it very gently. I had just watched him with the other children. He is so kind and gentle to other people's kids.

After she had left, I questioned my behavior and asked a few of the other moms there if I was out of line. They all conquered that I had behaved civilly and kindly (a first for me). Thankfully they all told Chris what a great job he did. AND HE DID! I was proud of all four of my kids. They really must have been listening when I presented this stuff because they did a FANTASTIC job in presenting their stations. They worked well with the kids and they taught the kids something fun and interesting about their bodies. They stepped up to the plate and hit a homerun!!!

After everyone had left, I spoke with Chris a little later and told him how proud I was of him for not running away or saying something hurtful in return. Later, I heard him crying and speaking to himself. I allow my kids to "yell at the mirror" if you will, when things don't go right. It helps them get the anger out and find words to their frustrations and emotions; kind of like punching a pillow instead of a sibling. I think he "yelled at the mirror" for a good 45 minutes. I heard him yell, "How was I supposed to know your child didn't know how to follow instructions. I didn't need to be yelled at. I was just doing my best. I'm just a kid myself!" Way to go Chris, you tell her!

Later that night an email came through and it was from her. I almost didn't want to read it, but I did. She sort of apologized but it was more of a long list of excuses as to why her son (and even her) acted that way they did. It was an alphabet soup of what is wrong with him and how the are in "therapy" to help deal with him. That was all nice and everything but not once in the email did she tell me to tell Chris she was sorry. NOT ONCE DID SHE TELL CHRIS SHE WAS SORRY!!!!! This was as close as she got, "Nevertheless, I should have done a better job explaining ____'s differences. Again, I apologize for being impatient with a little boy." (I wonder what "little boy" she meant.)

Like my title for this blog post; "I'm so proud of you, son!" Chris you're my rock star!