I finally had a break. Yes!!!! So I decided to go shopping, one of my favorite things to do. As perused through the aisles of the store, I noticed a mother pushing her child in a shopping cart. I didn’t know her, but when I looked at her son, I could tell that we both had something in common, our children.
I looked at her adorable boy as he shook his body erratically, his hands and arms flailed in the air, while noises emitted from his mouth. The mother’s expression looked familiar, one that I had seen numerous times on myself, “embarrassment.”
Her gentle and soft voice, whispered to him…“Calm down, baby.” Yet, he continued his humming noise as it increased in decibels, and his arm movement intensified. I noticed the mother’s uncomfortable demeanor as beads of sweat rolled down the sides of her forehead and uneasiness appeared on her face.
I looked delicately, knowing that, we parents of children with special needs don’t like an audience of grimacing looks from others. Yet, the shoppers unknowingly gave that unwanted expression as they shuffled passed the woman, taking their attention off of their shopping duties and onto her and her son. The curiosity of the onlookers only increased the mother’s awkwardness, as she scurried along to leave the area of spectators.
I watched her slowly shrink away, until she was no longer in my view. As I continued shopping, my heart ached with compassion. When I reached the checkout line, my eyes and heart searched, but couldn’t locate her. Once in my car, I thought about what I had just witnessed and I was overcome with tears. When I wiped my face, I realized that I was crying, not out of pity for the mother, but because there was a connection. I could see myself in her.
There I was in that same store years ago, with my then, 13 year-old son, at the height of his behavior problems. He was alongside me, helping to push the shopping cart, until he became upset. Suddenly Nate was gnawing on his left knuckle, as he made loud grunting noises. His right hand moved in a fast pace motion as he repeatedly hit himself on his head, while he jumped around in place. Just like that mother, I too tried to calm my son down, with soft and gentle words, while rubbing his back, to deescalate his behavior. Yet, Nate continued, becoming more irate.
I resembled that mother, as I became embarrassed from the stares of people, who seemed to appear out of nowhere, in my aisle, investigating whom or what was making the sound they were hearing. Just like that mother, I was left feeling uncomfortable, with beads of sweat dripping down the sides of my forehead, as I moved quickly through the store, paying for my items and dashing out the front door.
I was like that mother, I thought as I sat in the car thinking about what I had witnessed. It was that feeling that “I understand your life”. I understand the struggle in caring for a child with special needs.
It was that connection that had me crying…for her and for me.