(This is a revised version of a post that appeared on my first blog many years ago. There are times as an Autism parent that we have to laugh, because if we don’t laugh we just might cry. This was one of those times. )
My toddler made a big scene in public yesterday. I LOVE it when he does that (insert sarcasm font). This time it was in front of his older brother’s ENTIRE preschool assembly. This meant that a large group of people trained in early childhood education got to witness my epic failure as a Mom. Totally not a boring morning.
Toddler has a hard time when we drop Preschooler off at school. Due to his developmental delays and sensory issues he has trouble with the chaos and quick transition of running in and out of the church building. He also finds it incredibly frustrating when he is not allowed to stay and play with the older children and all the wonderful toys. Many a day it has triggered a meltdown, and I have several choices as to how to handle it. Sometimes I simply sit in the lobby and hold him tight, trying to remain calm while we let his emotion run its course. Other days I have the energy to get him back to the car, but it is a struggle. He kicks, screams, and drags his feet the whole way, and then I have to physically force him into his car seat. When I don’t have time to wait it out I usually use the stroller because letting him walk or carrying him is too risky. You see, if carry him I run the risk of droppage (yes, I know, not a real word) when he starts kicking and squirming. And if there is droppage not only is there the possibility of injury, there could also be escapage, and if there is escapage then there would be runnage. And if there is runnage he could get hurt or disappear, and we can’t have that. Have you even seen a small child with Autism try to get away? They are FAST! I worry about it all the time. Unfortunately there are some inherent risks to using the stroller, because Toddler has grown and can now reach his feet down to the floor. Trying to push a resistant passenger in one direction while he is trying to scoot in another is no easy task. He is a tough kid, and has been known to knock the stroller over during one of his escape attempts. It’s just what he does.
Yesterday was a stroller day and we were running late for school. I had to take Preschooler straight to chapel which was in a special location, a big open room called the “Fishbowl”. It has with glass doors and windows so you can see everything that goes on inside and out. I left Toddler sitting directly behind me in the hall, safely stroller-ed up, as I guided Preschooler to his waiting teacher. Leaning into the room I bent inconspicuously (or so I thought) down to whisper to her. I then heard a concerned voice say, ”Ma’am?”, and realized that almost EVERYONE was looking at me. It was one of those horribly uncomfortable moments that feels like a bad dream and makes check to make sure you didn’t forget to wear pants. A look behind revealed that Toddler was in need of some assistance. He had flipped his stroller over, while still strapped in, and was being assisted by two nice mothers who were lucky enough to be present to witness our little circus. All the preschool teachers looked horrified for poor Toddler, hands on their face, murmuring “Poor baby!” And what did I do? NOTHING. I froze. First of all, I could tell he wasn’t hurt and thus I wasn’t worried. It’s what he does, remember? Second of all, with all those eyes on me in my moment of shame I felt the need to explain the situation. “He does this a lot,” I said, probably a bit too matter-of-factly. Well, you should have SEEN the looks of horror on those teachers’ faces! And to top it all off, my dialogue had very effectively disrupted chapel and ensured that all focus was completely zoned in on my little drama. Talk about making a bad situation worse.
An attempt was made to resume chapel, but it got even better from there (sarcasm font again needed). I went back into the hall and decided to redeem myself by acting extra concerned, cooing as dramatically as possible, “OH, poor BABY!” I leaned down to hug Toddler, who was by then wailing. And then he KEPT wailing. He would not be calmed. Then I really felt like a horrible mother. Plus since we were still outside the Fishbowl they could clearly hear his shrieks inside their room. I felt those hundred or so eyes still on me as his cries continued to grow louder. Everyone was staring, Toddler was screaming, and I was a horrible mother. I attempted to pick him up, but as soon as the stroller straps were loose he lurched out of my arms. Running up to the glass with a loud *thud*, he flattened his face and hands against it and screamed to be let in. “Dramatic much?”, I thought to myself as my intense feelings of utter humiliation and a desperate need to hide grew steadily stronger. I scooped up Toddler with one hand and grabbed the stroller with the other. With arms full and head held high I tried to salvage what was left of my dignity and make as graceful and unobtrusive an exit as possible. Toddler rewarded me by kicking, screaming and dragging his feet. He then refused to exit the hallway and began to claw at the doorframe. The Chapel attendees who were still watching our little show were treated to the sight of Toddler being suspended sideways in mid-air, still clinging to the doorframe, while I desperately tried to pry him loose.
When we finally made it to our car I looked at my watch. It was only 9:15 in the morning and I was already exhausted. And I just had a display of horrible mom-ness in front of the entire preschool. I wondered if I had enough time to make ”I-really-am-a-good-mother, I swear” bribery cookies for the ENTIRE preschool staff before pickup. Then I realized I didn’t have the ingredients, and to get them I would have to take Toddler into the grocery store to get the ingredients. *SIGH*… better get that stroller…