From a Dad’s mind….The first public “bad behavior comment” and reactions

This is a post from my Husband, who had his first experience with a judgemental person making comments about our Autistics son’s tantrum in a store today as we ran a family errand. I think it is important to share because it gives a perspective of how a Dad feels to be addressed in such a manner in a public place.
Jack, I thank you for being so candid and admitting you might have handled things differently but I also thank you for, in your own way,defending our son.

From Jack:

It finally happened today. I was on the receiving end of my first comment about my son Lincoln’s behavior today. Not surprisingly, it came from exactly the type of person you’d expect it to come from, in of all places, WalMart (again, no surprise).
Lincoln has Asperger’s and he struggles with impulse control, especially when it comes to wanting toys. Some days he’s good; some days, well, not so much. Today in WalMart he was wanting a Lego toy and being this close to Xmas we made it clear that he wasn’t getting it today. Of course this wasn’t the answer Linc wanted to hear and he was getting upset, and in that whiny voice that kids have stated quite loudly “But I wannnnnnt it!”
At that moment, a troll of a woman, as ugly on the outside as she is on the inside, was waddling by with her cart and felt the need to comment, “Oh my God, how OLD is he?”
My wife (the anchor, the rock, and all things strong in our family) without missing a beat said quite
calmly but oh so sternly, “Um, excuse me, but he has autism.”
Myself however, wasn’t quite so calm, and between gritted teeth, yelled with as much venom as I felt towards this sad ignorant woman “SO F*CK OFF!” The troll sped off, saying nothing more, not even an apology.
My wife immediately chastised me, saying my reaction was inappropriate, making me no better than the troll that had made the comment. In retrospect it was, but it was a reaction. I’ve never been one to make excuses for my son and I never will. But at that moment, when someone felt the need to comment about my son, that’s when my angry Dad side took over. Did it make her feel better about her life to make a comment like that to a total stranger? Was my sons minor tantrum disrupting her wonderful shopping experience at WalMart? Who knows. And in the grand scheme of things, who cares?
Later at home, I watched Linc enjoy himself on our trampoline, innocent, happy, being himself and I couldn’t be prouder. I’m not ashamed of my son. I’m not embarrassed of my son. But I am defensive and protective of my son, and always will be.
I love you Linc. Thank you for being my son and for letting me be your Dad 🙂
Now back to Mom…
I’m not going to say this did not bother me, it did.
I wish I had the thick skin I act like I do but my consolation is that I know that woman is just a thoughtless person and she made herself look insensitive and ignorant.
My children stood around us while this interaction went on and I am thankful that they were so they know two things:
1) bad things happen sometimes to nice people for no reason
2)That you can’t let others change the way you feel about yourself and your family.
My son is seven and to look at him you can’t see he has Autism. You see a big, strapping handsome boy who is acting odd (at times, not often) and you might wonder WHY he is acting like someone much younger.
You may think “those parents! 4 kids and they just let this one whine and complain and look, they are not shutting him down! how lazy! what bad parents.!!”
What you don’t see if that:
1) That child has Autism.
One of the top symtoms of Autism is tantrums and incorrect reaction to situations. It is a difficult thing to diffuse, change or teach to circumvent. Much of the time we get VERY little, if any warning a tantrum is coming. AND I would note that this tantrum was very, very VERY minor. I’ve thrown bigger tantrums in Wal-mart.
I have once carried both my 2nd and 3rd born typical functioning sons out under my arms kicking and screaming from Wal-mart and they did MUCH more than Lincoln did today.
2) it was about  10 seconds from when he started whining to when this lady said what she said and I already had my arm on LIncoln to pull him over to me and talk to him. I was hunched down to face him when I spoke to her.
10 seconds. Not 5 minutes, not an hour.
She was just walking past and spat her venom without a thought.
3) I had 3 other kids and 1 spouse with me who her comment effected. She never even considered what impact her comment would have on kids that will need to support the brother they love. She likely hurt their feelings also. I know she hurt my Husbands.
PEOPLE!!! Think first, I beg you.
If you see something that should not be happening, if a child seems too OLD to be acting in a way, if they seem odd, THINK FIRST. Watch the parent. Does it seem that perhaps, just maybe that child may have a reason? Can’t be sure?
Then keep it to yourself. Words hurt.
Words really hurt when parents CONSTANTLY hear them and have no control over how their child might behave. The benefit of the doubt is better than a hug because truthfully, all a parent with a child with special needs wants is a chance to enjoy a moment for what it is and for once not have to have their guard up or feel judged.
And all they want for their child is the same.
It’s a gift you can give that doesn’t cost you a thing.

5 thoughts on “From a Dad’s mind….The first public “bad behavior comment” and reactions

  1. I haven’t had to brave through my first rude comment yet… But I know the older my son gets (he’s almost 8) the closer I’m getting to it. At times I’m somewhat thankful for his speech impairment because I feel it gives strangers a heads up that its not just “bad parenting” they’re witnessing… I hope I can handle myself as well as you did when our time comes…

  2. Trolls come in all levels of attractiveness and some of the worst ones inhabit places like Macy’s. You’re going to need a long-term strategy, because more hurt is coming – from my experience.

    One of our worst was the day one of Will’s teachers called us to tell us that Will was attracted to a girl in his class (in high school). And that he had good taste in girls. But she had gone to the teacher and complained (in part because Will was very autistic, and in part because he was trying to monopolize her attention and didn’t understand the boundaries involved). This was surprisingly, shockingly hurtful to us, and to Will. On other hand, this was an issue that we had to deal with. This girl had not made fun of Will. She had gone quietly to her teacher. The teacher had not made an issue of this in class, when he could have done so.

    There are situations where people (of all ages and appearances) behave like trolls. On the other hand, there are people in our lives who give us feedback that is necessary for the safety and well being of our child and of those around him. We did not want Will’s behavior to be interpreted as stalking or harassment, when really he was naive and innocent in his intentions. So we were thankful, even though hurt, for this input from this girl and Will’s teacher. Adolescence is so tricky.

  3. I think it was kind of the girl to at least go quietly to the teacher but it is unfortunate she felt she had to at all and not just take it as a compliment..After all, it is not too often a girl complains when she is admired by someone unless it is excessive and unwanted. If he were the captain of the football team, would she have said anything?

    I guess we learn to live with these situations and can only hope they don’t hurt us too deep.

    Thank you so much for sharing 🙂 Best to Will!

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