March 18, 2008 by Marj Hatzell
The other night Polite Boy slept over and Bug Boy and Polite Boy always get to pick dinner for a sleepover. The budding little epicureans picked a most delectable eatery. Here.
Yes, dripping with sarcasm, my statement was (channeling my inner Yoda).
Ugh. Salty, premade, nasty food. About the only good thing they are good for is pancakes. Which is exactly why the boys wanted to go there. Except they changed their minds once the children’s menu was handed to them (don’t even get me started on the corporation encouraging children to eat like total C.R.A.P.) and got nuggets and fries and begged for the neato-keen rocket ship sippy cups. Never mind the fact that they are seven and nine.
So anyways, it took a while to get seated (shoulda been our first clue to turn and leave. No, RUN.) and Darling and I had to take turns walking Bugaboo around the place over and over and over (and over) because Bugaboo doesn’t exactly wait well. We can keep him distracted for so long, you know? And I always keep a stash of stuff in the diaper bag to entice him for the fifteen to twenty minutes we generally wait for whatever he is eating. I made a trip to the bathroom to try to get him on the potty and he washed his hands for about ten minutes (scaring the be-jeebus outta some little girl in there. Why, praytell, would a woman allow her prepubescent daughter to wear STRETCH CAPRIS when she was a tad on the chunky side?). We were seated at a booth and Bugaboo sat, stood, sat and stood while we ordered. Darling suddenly exclaimed, “Uh. I think we should switch sides.” An older couple was being seated directly behind our corner booth. The couple smiled and the woman said, “Oh, no! I’m a grandma! I’m used to it, really. He’ll be fine.” Except, she doesn’t have a Bugaboo, I’m sure of it. I was nervous, but thanked her in advance for her patience. We ordered, the boys were about thirty decibels louder than normal while they discussed side dishes and the cheesy pictures on the walls.
Bugaboo became antsy and the food still hadn’t arrived. I took him outside (it was gorgeous Saturday) for a walk and went back in. Darling took a turn. I took a turn. The food still hadn’t arrived, so Darling took a turn. I asked the waitress for goldfish for Bugaboo to help him wait better. He sat and crushed up every single goldfish and stimmed it onto the floor under our booth. And if it wasn’t under the booth, it was all over the table and bench seat. Still, the kind couple smiled while Bugaboo showered them with crushed rainbow goldfishes. Bugaboo stood on the back of the booth. The nice lady said, “No need to apologize! I had one JUST LIKE HIM and he is twenty-one and turned out fine!” I smiled politely. Just like him, huh? Lady, you are sweet and talk to the kids like they are your grandkids, but I doubt you have one JUST LIKE HIM.
She then asked me the question I most dread. The one I get asked at every public outing. The one that makes me shift uncomfortably, laugh nervously and give them a big clue that “one of these kids is not like the other.” The one where people then politely say, “Oooohhhhh.” And then they end the conversation or find a way to get away. Except this time I decided I was gonna say it with pride. This time, when she gave me that questioning glance, I was just gonna proclaim the truth.
She asked, “How old is he?” Gulp. Gotta answer. Heart pounding. Ears ringing. “He’s five. ” And she said, really? He’s so quiet! And well-behaved! Just listen to the other kids here! He’s the best-behaved one!” I nearly burst out laughing then. Then I blurted out, “Well, he has autism. A year ago we couldn’t even come into a place like this. We couldn’t go anywhere. He’s come a long way. And she replied, “You are kidding! I never would have known! He is acting like every other kid in here. No! He’s acting BETTER than every other kid in here! You should be proud!”
Just goes to show you that perhaps it isn’t as glaringly obvious as I think. Except for when he’s sprawled on the ground at Tarzhay biting his hand and screaming. Or when he is showering people with wood chips at the playground. Or when he goes up to a random mommy at the playground and pulls her hand and signs, “More swing” and gets upset when they freeze in their tracks and look around helplessly because all they see is a kid jumping up and down, humming and flapping his hands. They don’t see a kid that has worked his little fanny off to learn twelve signs in five years. They just see a kid. They don’t see a kid that had reflux and esophagial disease and chronic bowel problems and food allergies and seizures and immune disease. They just see a kid. They don’t see the sleepless nights, poo flinging, food stimming, screaming and nekkid escaping. They just see a kid. And that? That makes me proud. We’ve worked so hard, prayed even harder, cried even harder than that. Every little step is such a struggle. It is such a chore. And he does it all, without complaint (mostly. Ok, he complains a bit. Fine. He complains the whole time, but who cares?) and does it all with a smile on his face.
I am so proud of this amazing, happy little boy. He makes my life so much more meaningful. And for the first time, I feel like we are the ‘normal’ ones and the rest of y’all are the weirdos. No offense. Just sayin’.
ETA: I TOTALLY forgot the best part of our experience at Lenny’s the other night. Bugaboo sitting UNDER the booth while we ate, stimming on the goldfish that were on the ground already. And then he began eating. Stuff that was already under there. Like, food from previous customers that we did not order. Say it all together now: EEEEEWWWWWWW!!!!!!