Ignoring the stares and comments from strangers used to be a daily occurrence. People had a lot to say about the behaviours they saw from Jay in the early years. At first it was really hard. Every look put me on edge and every judgmental word made me cry – Then my skin got thicker. I became a master at focusing on him and what I needed to do to help him, instead of them.
Without me noticing it, the need for the thick skin slowly faded. His tantrums have all but disappeared. He has become more and more able to regulate himself and function in a mainstream setting.
I got comfortable.
Nowadays we sit back gleefully and soak up all the positive reports we get from school. We grin and get all the good feelies when people who know us see how well he’s adjusting and working his way through life.
We brag about his sense of self and his unwavering support for his brother. If Jay has your back, he really has your back. Trust me, you want him in your corner.
Plus, he’s just so darn cute.
When he goes to martial arts class – we see him through parental eyes. A year ago he would have been unable to handle that type of setting. The bright lights and loud noises. The physical touching and demands to perform, to wait your turn, to be crisp and sharp and to remember routines.
When he’s in class we see him thriving. We see him learning the moves. We see him getting stronger. We see him trying really hard. We see him HAPPY and proud of himself. We share the videos with family and friends. They all cheer for him and share our excitement.
When he’s in his martial arts class the joy bounces off him. He loves it there and it’s magical.
It’s obvious that this child is a super star and that he deserves to be praised and celebrated.
Then one day you are reminded that everyone is not in your bubble. You make the mistake of forgetting that not everyone sees him through the same lens that you do.
They don’t see the amazing, over-comer that you see. They see just another kid. They see him running too fast or his arms moving too erratically or his coordination not being quite as good as the other children. They see him smiling too widely and laughing too loudly and being a little too silly. They wonder out loud, “WHAT’S WRONG WITH THAT KID?”
They don’t know they are witnessing a miracle.
I’d love to shrug it off and say it sucks for them. That it’s their loss and their life would be richer if they could really see him. Really see him. But the truth is that no matter how much you try to convince yourself of that, it hurts. You wonder if you should say something to defend your kid. Shout at them. Calmly educate them. Or should you just ignore it.
How dare they dampen your joy. How dare they put a nick in the awesomeness that it is to see your child shine. How dare they assume to know anything about where we have been and how far we have come and what our story is. How dare they wonder about what it took for us to get to this point.
No, hearing those questions doesn’t erase all the work or minimize the achievements, but it does make you stagger. It feels like a kick in the gut.
In the end, you sit there, swallowing bitterness and fighting the urge to lash out. You let your kid finish his lesson. You give him a huge hug when he runs over to you at the end of it; delighted with his performance. You hold his hand tight, and your head high, as you walk past the same people who were wondering what was wrong with him.