This video showed up on my newsfeed this morning. If you're like me and don't enjoy clicking back and forth on a phone, I'll sum it up for you. The ABC program "What Would You Do" did an episode about a child being taken out to lunch with his family. The child in the program behaved as if he had autism (repetitive words and wandering, among other things) and then ABC waited with their hidden cameras to see what diners would do. When no one reacted to the boy's behavior, they used another actor to instigate some trouble - he acted offended and gave advice to the family (ie; take your kid home or discipline him.) The entire diner then rallied behind the family and the actor that was being rude was encouraged to leave the diner amid cheers and clapping.
I cried a few times watching the video. Probably because I'm really over-tired from a fun yesterday of wine tasting and grilling out with my in-laws. Also because I cry at commercials and kids movies. But honestly I probably cried a little because it was great to see people doing the right thing by this family, whether it was a real situation or not.
Taking Little Man out in public is always risky. We do our best to prepare for any possibility, but sometimes it just doesn't want to work. Little Man chooses seemingly on a whim the days where he will be a reasonable companion to our outing, and something that worked to calm him the week before will suddenly no longer work. Our diaper bag has more distractions for Little Man than diapers and formula, and we are constantly finding new items to carry with us that might just help us during those crucial few moments before a tantrum becomes a full-out meltdown.
Last weekend we took Hubs out to dinner for his birthday to a crab shack that is way out in the boonies. We'd been there a few times before, and it's great food and short wait times - basically a good place for dining with kids. We packed up the diaper bag full of snacks, toys, and the portable DVD player and were all set for a great lunch. Until we sat down and stuck Little Man in the highchair. Nope. Not having it. He was screaming bloody murder, and we took out the Last Resort - the magic DVD player. And it broke. And because we were out in the boonies, there was no WiFi to stream a movie on our phones.
We were in the back corner of the restaurant, but the screams were loud and then he started hitting his ears and head (extreme meltdown mode). So Hubs grabbed his beer and the Little Man and they went outside to cool down. Ten minutes go by and we think we've got the DVD player working again, so they come back in. The DVD player works for a few minutes and then it breaks again, leaving Little Man in tears. Not even the allure of fruit snacks is stopping this tantrum. They go back outside and hang there until dinner arrives and we decide to try one more time. For whatever reason, third time is the charm and we make it through dinner. Crisis averted, I guess. We got to eat dinner, and it wasn't cold.
When I was waiting for Hubs to come back inside the second time, the woman from the table next to us stopped by our table and leaned down to talk to me. "You're doing a great job", she said, and then just smiled and walked off.
As strange and awkward as it might seem to offer that sentiment to a complete stranger, I wish more people had the courage to say something. Because it really helps. It helps when you feel like everyone is staring, and everyone is judging you for not having your kid "under control" and not "disciplining him". It helps in those horrible moments in the grocery store where you just want to melt into the floor because you know that it isn't "normal" for a six year old to be sobbing uncontrollably while wiping his tears into his mouth and chewing on his fingers. It helps when you are watching your child slap his head and face, and you're wondering what the dozens of watchful eyes are thinking to themselves as they stare at your family in the checkout lane.
We live this situation in varying degrees all the time, and it is very, very real. That horrible diner from the video that is judging that family is out there, and he embarrasses you and breaks your heart sometimes. The "it takes a village" mentality about being able to shame all children (yours or not) into behaving while they are out in public is mortifying to a parent of a child with developmental disabilities. People who know nothing about your child find it extremely important to tell you what you are doing is wrong and that you aren't parenting properly. Despite the happy message of the video, it is much more rare for me to encounter a person who simply supports us, builds us up, and reminds us we aren't alone and that even though it looks bad today - we are doing a great job and things will be better tomorrow.
Just think about it next time you see a family struggling out in public. Think about how hard they are working to be "normal", or even to just get through this one outing, this one afternoon. Think about it before you give them a dirty look or roll your eyes because they are disrupting your life somehow. I promise that most of those families wish you weren't inconvenienced by them as well. I promise that most of those families wished you never even noticed them. We're just trying to get through dinner too.