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.