If you would've told me that my life would've taken this turn 16 years ago I would've thought you were crazy. Sometimes I have a hard time remembering the person I used to be. Does that make sense? I cannot remember the person who advocated so harshly for services due to her child. I cannot remember the care-free adult who could drop everything at a moments notice and hit the road to Indy. I have a hard believing that I was the woman who had no idea what IEPs (Individualized Educational Plan) and BIPs (Behavioral Intervention Plans) were. What was my life like before assessments, plans, case managers, wrap around facilitators, intake coordinators, and mentors?
All of that sounds like I mourn this previous like. I don't. While I would prefer that I would not need to have some of the information I have rolling around in my head, all this HAS made me a better person. It has made me more aware of those around me. I has made me look at people (and children) as more than their behaviors, but as people who may struggle with their own demons. It has made me more tolerant, more compassionate and more kind. It has made me a better mother by advocating for my kids even when it doesn't include a disability. It has made me more aware of my world.
When I think about the "before me" and the "after me" there is one memory that always stands out to me. The memory is so burned into my mind it is like playing a movie in my head. I was probably 24. I was out of college and working fulltime at the daycare. I had gone to Target to purchase something for the daycare. There was a family in front of me that was a mom and 2 kids. The kids were perhaps 7 and 10. The mom had a large order and the boys were irritating in each other. The younger boy started throwing a fit, screaming and hitting and kicking. The mom tried to straighten them up and askedthem to stop. She reacted a little roughly, what I perceived as impatience, I look back on now and see fear. She was fearful that this would quickly escalate and get ugly fast. She was right. The older boy stepped to the end of the lane and quickly began ignoring what was going on. He was mortified. He looked tired and embarrassed. He was not an angel, but you could tell he was tired of dealing with his younger siblings fits. The little one kept on fighting an flailing and screaming. The mom was trying to write a check and he was pulling on her coat and kicking her legs. She was trying to write the check and ignore his behaviors. She "trapped" him between her body and the counter and finished writing her check. The checkout girl was getting info off her identification and the child kept going. The mom looked tired and worn out. She was obviously aware of the attention she was getting, but she never reacted to the stares. By this time the child had wrapped himself in her long coat and was stuck to her legs. He began to calm down. She said, "Let's go home and get some dinner."
The "before me" saw a mom who had no control of her kids. The "before me" saw a mom who was unable to stop her child from hitting her, a mom who was ignoring and had no idea what to do. The "before me" was sickened that she would say "Let's go home and get some dinner" instead of "You are grounded!". I remember walking up to the checkout girl and saying, "Lord, he needs a serious whooping!" And we chuckled.
How would the "after me" react? I would probably give her a knowing glance and tell her it is okay. I may even attempt to help disengage him. I would definitely explain to the checkout girl that I could be "that" mom and that my child is special needs.
I distinctly remember the day that this scenario became a part of my thoughts. We were in a hotel in Indianapolis that had a water park. We were eating in the hotel's restaurant and Dustin was carrying on. There were only a few people in the restaurant, but of course there was one family at the table next to us. Dustin had to be removed and Robert took him back to the room. I was left with the 2 little kids and an awkward silence. The mom at the other table locked eyes with me and I was mortified. I apologized and said he was special needs. She said, "I recognized that. I am sorry you had to deal with that at your dinner. We have been foster parents for years so I get it." Serious. The woman apologized that I had to deal with that at dinner, she wasn't worried about her dinner. She was worried about mine. That is kindness. That is compassion. That is what I want to be like. I instantly remembered that exchange at Target and I swore I would never make assumptions about parent's in a similar situation ever again.
My boy turns 16 this week. Sixteen years ago he was inside his mother's womb. A womb that is designed to be a protection from the world until he is ready to be born. His womb could not protect him from the alcohol that his mother chose to drink while pregnant.
22 hours ago