Saturday, July 16, 2011

Stop Staring!

OK, I’ve had it.  It’s time to set the record straight.  And I’m not being self-righteous here, either.  I’ve made this mistake in the past, and now I’m here to put a stop to it.  As you all know, I love Little E more than life itself.  The same goes for Mama Bird.  And it’s because of the two of them that I’m about to lose it on this particular subject.


It used to be that when we would go out, we were the childless couple who always got seated next to the family with three loud, obnoxious kids.  And if we saw the hostess taking us towards one of those families, we always redirected her.  It wasn’t that we didn’t like kids, we just didn’t like other people’s kids.  And, honestly, that last part holds true to this day, for the most part.  But now we watch the children more closely.  And the reason we do that lies in some research that we have recently started ourselves.


We’ve figured out that Little E has a Sensory Processing Disorder.  It hasn’t officially been diagnosed, but all of the warning signs are consistent with what we think it may be.  But that’s not what I want to write about today.  The research and learning that we are doing has two purposes: 1) To educate ourselves, 2)educating others and raising awareness.  It’s not a serious disease or disorder, but it is something that affects a very large percentage of adults as well as children.  Mama Bird and I both suffer from the same thing, but we, as adults, have figured out how to deal with our issues.  Children can’t do this, they lack the problem solving skills that we learn throughout our lives to help us cope with our “issues”.  Whether it’s needing to line cans up in the pantry a certain way or feeling the need to step into a room or a new surface with a certain foot first, we all have our quirks, and that is what makes us all special.


At this point we don’t know exactly what it is that triggers her “episodes” or how we should work around them.  We also haven’t had it categorized to know what our next step would be and how to make things easier for her to handle.  But I do know this: I’m getting sick and tired of people staring at us when Little E starts is having a bad day.  My child has a disorder, what’s your excuse for not watching your child?  Not so long ago we were at the grocery store when Little E decided that she, and only she, was going to push the cart.  The problem with this is that she doesn’t exactly have control over the cart and has some trouble with steering, therefore, either Mama Bird or myself need to help out so that she doesn’t run someone or something down.  Most of the time she is not OK with this and we need to “secretly” steer the cart.  Well, on this particular night, there was a woman standing by the deli talking to her friend while her child ran rampant between the deli counter and salad bar.  While her child was wreaking havoc in that area she had the audacity to point and stare at Little E.  Are you kidding me?  How about instead of assuming that I don’t know how to take care of my child why don’t you go ahead and worry about your own?


In another instance, this one not involving Little E, we recently went to see fireworks on July 3rd.  This was Little E’s first experience with the big boomers, so it was bound to be interesting.  With all the “people experience” I have from working in retail the majority of my career, you would think that I would be numb to the inconsideration of most people.  Yet people never cease to amaze me with some of the things they do.  For example, while we were driving through the mall parking lot to find somewhere to watch the show, we saw people who actually took up two spots by pulling halfway through a spot and putting their chairs and blankets on the ground behind them.  So as I was getting increasingly frustrated with these people, I found an area across the street where only a few people were sitting and I backed the car up so that Little E and Mama Bird could sit in the back while I sat next to them in a chair.  Soon after we arrived, a large SUV and a minivan parked on either side of us, forcing a couple to move their chairs so they could see better.  Then children poured out of the two vehicles and congregated within a few feet of our car and talked rather loudly.  This was followed by a game of tag during which our car rocked back and forth twice.  Let me just say that the parents of these children were lucky that the actual fireworks started at this time, because I was starting to see fireworks of my own.


I brought up the last story because I want to point out the difference between those two situations.  At the grocery store, I didn’t worry so much about her child, but her pointing and staring really irked me.  Chances are, the way that her child was acting, he either was seeking attention because she was too engrossed in her conversation about Little E, or, he, too, suffers from an SPD and his mother is unaware.  In the second situation, the parents were just irresponsible and only worried about themselves.  There weren’t any noticeable SPDs present in the children running into our car, but I’m not an expert.  The children were being poorly supervised and one of them even got hurt when he tripped and rolled across the ground that was covered in goose poop.  We didn’t even allow Little E to get down and walk around because of all the feces.


Recently a friend posted a news story on Facebook about a restaurant in Monroeville, PA, just outside Pittsburgh,   The owner decided that, in order to reduce the amount of noise in his establishment, he is now banning all children under six years of age.  This throws the family night out right out the window.  How can someone decide who you can or can’t take into a restaurant?  Judging by the picture on their website, the dining room doesn’t look all that extravagant, but what do I know?  I have a child under six.  Personally, I think the grumpy old man owner just doesn’t like kids.  Why?  There’s a bar in the restaurant.  You’re telling me that guys finish their round of golf, come into the bar, and don’t get loud and rowdy?  Yep, that’s right, they are on site of an 18-hole golf course.  I’ll bet it’s quiet in there at night now that the six-and-under crowd has been eliminated.  There’s so much more I want to say here, but I’m trying my hardest to keep this blog family friendly.


Another point brought up by a friend on Facebook: on a recent visit to Dorney Park in Allentown, PA, she witnessed a horrid display of discrimination and poor judgment.  While waiting in line for a ride (not sure which one) where she saw an employee turn away a mom with a 2-year old with Down’s Syndrome because they thought the child couldn’t handle the ride.  In the meantime, the same employee allowed another mom to take her 10-month-old on the same ride.  WHAT?!?  And the employee was backed up by management!  It just goes to show how little people know about these disorders.  My goal over the next few weeks is to educate everyone on these disorders from SPD’s to autism, Aspberger’s, and Down’s Syndrome.  I’ve had it and it’s time to try and get more information out there.


People need to take care of their own kids and stop worrying about why other people’s children act the way they do.  Maybe the child they are staring at is autistic or has an SPD.  Neither of these things has anything to do with how the child is being raised.  They are disorders that can’t necessarily be controlled, but, given the correct circumstances, they can be subdued.  I don’t judge people like before because I don’t know their situation.  But I am aware of mine and I can promise you this: I’m not going to stand there and take it anymore.  If we’re out and I catch you staring my daughter because you think she is misbehaving, I promise that we will have words of some sort.  Little E has trouble dealing with certain situations but I don’t, and I can handle myself in a civilized manner.  Can you?

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