Search This Blog

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mean people and kind people

This morning, on the way to school, Janey and I stopped at the grocery store.  She needed more juice boxes for school, where they keep a cupboard of snacks for her, as her eating is odd and often doesn't fit nicely into school lunch or packed lunch categories.  Janey has been tough lately.  She's making big strides with understanding and with doing things for herself, but as often is the case with her, those strides come with a period of strife.  She had already freaked out in the car several times, but I really had to do the store---I wasn't going to send her off to school without the tools they need to get her through the day.  That isn't fair for me to do.  So I hoped for the best and went into the store.

At first, things were okay.  Janey stayed with me, was cooperative and it seemed to be going well.  It was just a quick shop, and I had hopes of getting out of there without problems.  But then I made a huge error.  I stopped at the magazine rack.  I was hoping to pick up a crocheting magazine---my latest passion.  But I didn't follow the rules of shopping with autistic kids.  I lingered there for longer than the allowed 30 seconds. I must have looked for that magazine for a full 90 seconds, or maybe a second or two more.  I didn't find it, and the damage was done.  Janey wrenched out of my hand and ran down the aisle screaming.  I caught up to her, but not before she had grabbed some crayons and opened them in anger.  I tossed the crayons in the cart to buy---not for her, but because I couldn't leave them open on the shelf.  She continued to freak out the whole time we were checking out---loud screaming, biting sleeves, a little head banging, general hysteria.  We only had about 15 items, but it still felt like a long time standing there.

The woman behind me in line, when I caught her eye, smiled at me in a wonderful way.  She then said "I hope both of you have a better day soon!"  I wanted to hug her.  It was exactly the kind of response that is so, so wonderful to get---a kind smile, a nice word.  Then we walked toward the door, and a woman that had been in the next aisle stared me down as we both approached the door.  She muttered something under her breath that I won't repeat here, but it was far from pleasant.  It used some swear words in relation to Janey.  I felt like she had kicked me.  I just as quickly as I could got to the car, unloaded it, and had a few minutes sitting inside crying.

I don't understand what drives people to act like that.  Did she honestly feel I had just brought a brat into the store to ruin her day?  I know it's not fun to be around someone who is melting down.  I know that better than most.  But short of keeping Janey home at all times, I can't prevent the public from occasionally having to be present for one of her meltdowns.  I just can't.  And I'm sorry if they upset people.  I truly am.  I've become a little stronger over the years in dealing with stares and disapproval, but I have to say it's still incredibly hard for me to soldier through a time like today.  Which is kind of the point I'd like to make to that nasty lady---I very much don't need you pointing out to me how Janey was behaving or how it bothered you.  I'm plently aware of it.

But I'll end positively.  The sweet, sweet woman that was so helpful with her words and attitude---there are a lot of people like that.  And I hope they know how much a simple kind word can do.  I hope I have a chance in life to pay it forward and be like her as often as possible, because I have learned what a huge difference that kind of kindness can make in someone's life.

10 comments:

audball said...

I'm so sorry you had a trying time at the store…many hugs to you. I have been there so often (with both my kids, including the one not on the spectrum!) and it's just frustrating and painful to see the judgement in people's eyes. Try not to let that mean lady get the best of you. As my dear husband says, "The worst punishment is that these bitter people have to live with themselves their whole lives…" If they choose not to look at people with kindness (like the woman who hoped you had a better day; she was a gem!), there's a good chance that they are the same people who can find anger and hate in everything.

Our CBT told us that she saw a child having an issue at a local store. What she did was wonderful: First, she assured the mom that she could help the child and explained she was a therapist. She asked if she could help. She said the mom was practically in tears, she was so grateful. Our therapist then spoke gently to the child and reached for some bubbles that happened to be on the shelf (they were in a toy aisle). She opened the bottle and blew bubbles from a distance. The child stopped screaming and just looked at the bubbles. Our therapist then approached him a little closer and continued to speak to him gently and blow bubbles -- finally offering to let him blow. Blowing bubbles requires controlling your breath (smart lady, our therapist is!), so it was helpful if the child didn't yell and calmed himself to catch his breath so he could blow the bubbles. Within a few minutes, the child was calm enough to go on with his mom, who was extremely thankful for the kindness and understanding.

When I hear stories like the one you just wrote, I always think of our therapist and her inspirational story….if everyone could spread a little kindness, such as a sympathetic smile/comment or an offer to help a parent or child - the world would be such a better place.

Sabrina said...

That other woman's actions - and attitude - appalls me. Even if she was bothered by Janey, for crying out loud, there's no need to get nasty about it, even under your breath.

It's people like the woman who offered you her kind words that indeed should be commended. More people should be like her!

Monique said...

I guess we have all been there if you have kids. Mean people suck but they are out there. Mentally tell that lady to SUCK IT as my husband puts it and focus on the good.

mknecht24 said...

Kudos to Janey (and Suzanne!) for spreading Autism Awareness Lindsey-style! Taking it to the people. Some people can deal with it...others cannot. Being sarcastic in nature, I would have been giving the mean "lady" the mental middle finger, slapped a huge grin on my face and shouted "Have a nice day!" over the meltdown. The compassionate lady will have a special seat in heaven surrounded by rainbows and kittens. Kindness is a gift. When Jacob (who is only 3) hears a kid crying and screaming, he says "they must be sad right now". The key part of that is "right now". Why is a public meltdown assumed to be a character (or parenting) flaw? Meltdowns/tantrums are always situational. EVERY SINGLE PERSON on the planet has either been in one or dealt with one. Oy. Suzanne and Janey...mental hugs from me.

Antti said...

I agree with audballs husband. It is like a sentence for life. Every weekday, every holiday, be it Christmas, be it Halloween, you are always there with yourself and your stuffy thoughts. You wake up at night and you are still there.
This is getting creepy, I'd better stop...

Sophie's Trains said...

Mean people suck but like others have said, they're making themselves most miserable. Also I don't think they discriminate, they are equally miserable and rude to anyone who rubs them the wrong way; a screaming child, a bad driver, a cashier... I really don't think much of them and depending on the circumstances might even feel pity for the way they're choosing to live.
I'm sorry she made you sad.

Suzanne said...

Thanks for all your support. Lots of people I talked to about this, as well as you, my autism and/or blog friends, talked about how that nasty lady has to live with herself all the time, and how that's enough to feel sorry for her. And I do. If you are nasty to people, you are going to end up living in a nasty and sad world, because how you relate to people affects how they relate to you. It's hard for me to picture why she would do that still, though. Maybe she was just crazy, or having a very bad day, or on the spectrum somehow herself, or any number of things. I've done pretty well putting her out of my head, and remembering the wonderful lady's smile and encouragement. I need to get tougher. That's something I'm going to write about next, I think!

Mary Leonhardt said...

Suzanne, I don't know about this lady at the store who was so mean, but I remember vividly going to a Burger King with my mother-in-law when she was descending, fairly rapidly, into Alzheimer's. There was a disabled little boy at a the table next to us (probably on the spectrum) and my MIL kept saying things like "What' wrong with him?" etc.

Before the dementia, she was one of the sweetest ladies I knew. THis wasn't really her. I got her out of there as soon as I could--making apologies to that family--but have always felt so bad about it. So perhaps your generosity in thinking of reasons this mean lady was acting like she was was really realistic.

I am really in awe of the grace and strength you show continually.

Suzanne said...

Mary, thanks so much for that story, although I'm sorry you had to have it happen to you. It's a way I'd much rather think about that lady---that she was someone that for whatever reason wasn't completely in control of how she was acting. I ask for that when people consider how Janey is acting---for them to realize she isn't the same as most kids, and I should consider it when others aren't the same as most adults. I actually once had a friend's parent write me a very strange and somewhat abrasive email, and figured out later that she was in the early stages of Alzheimer's. I've always felt glad I didn't answer the email in like tone. You have made me think about something very important to consider.

Simone Blanchard said...

Anyone that would give you grief in that situation ... Or aim nastiness toward Janey ... Is a total ass. Bottom line. Life has taught her nothing and she has a dried up raisin or a heart. No, raisins are sweet. Even that's too generous. I am sorry you had to shoulder it.