I know, I know, I just can’t shut up about the whole tolerance thing. But I really can’t. It’s too important.
And I was reminded of that back in December at the tournament for Special Olympics bowling.
It was an interesting morning. We got there on time, found out what lane Simon would be bowling on, and then settled in. Minutes after we got there, the boy sitting next to Simon pulled down his own pants and began masturbating. Whoops. The aide with him stopped him, and the boy sat back down, seemingly okay again. Time for the pledge of allegiance; everyone stood, the pledge ended, and the boy whacked Simon on the head. Hard.
For a second, we thought Simon wasn’t going to respond to it. He will sometimes get hurt, and then ignore it, like a toddler who falls down and only cries if a parent says something about it. This time, though, I think it was too much of a hit, and he started crying and getting upset. Not that anyone can blame him. I mean, if I’m standing there saying the pledge and someone whacked me on the head out of nowhere, I think I’d start crying, too.
The aide with the other boy pulled him away, and promised they would keep him away from Simon. We said fine because, hey, it happens. Patrick went down to the seats and held Simon, trying to calm him, and it took a while, but eventually, Simon seemed to be doing a little better. But he still wanted Patrick down there with him.
Another mother was also down with her son. No one was bothering anyone. No one was complaining. No one was unhappy (except for Simon, who was still getting over the random smack).
Then a different mother came over, looking for a Special Olympics official. She was unhappy because there were parents down with the children – how dare that happen! She asked an open question about why the parents were down there, and I explained what had happened with my son and that my husband was there with permission and good reason.
“Well,” she huffed, “what about the mother down there? Who’s she there for? Why’s she down there?”
I told her I didn’t know, and she continued her mission, finding someone to complain to about the nerve of some parents, and succeeding in getting the other mother removed from the sitting area.
I don’t want to fall back on a favorite saying of a friend of mine, because the saying is completely inappropriate, yet somehow it makes me giggle when I apply it to this situation. The saying? Snitches get stitches.
Really, I don’t think she should get stitches, but I do wonder why she felt the need to police other parents and other children. Aren’t we all in this together? Aren’t we all just trying to get along, get through, get happy? Why would you try to make someone else – and someone else’s special needs child – unhappy? Why?
Now, to be fair, I do understand that she was looking for just that: fairness. She didn’t want anyone getting special treatment. But sometimes the rules, especially for kids with more severe problems, are hard. Not being allowed to have a parent or aide with them can make it very difficult for them to compete. The bowling alley is loud, it’s overwhelming, and it’s very, very busy. The kids need all the support they can get. Yes, you want your kid to win if he or she is the “best,” but what about going with the theme of Special Olympics? If I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt…
Today a guy walked by me in the parking lot of the grocery store just as Simon got into the car and I was starting to put the groceries in the trunk.
This guy said, all disgusted-sounding, some comment like, “Huh, he’s just getting in the car and getting comfortable and not even helping you load those up.”
His tone made it clear. “Kids these days.” And maybe even “parents these days.” Because he clearly thought I was also doing wrong by not forcing my son to help.
Part of me wanted to correct him, tell him that I was happier with my son sitting in the car – somewhere safe, unlike the parking lot where the birds crying overhead would scare him and where loud noises would bother him.
Tell him that just minutes before, as I was paying for these groceries, my son had turned to one of the male employees at the store – someone we’d never seen before – and asked for a “big hug” while the guy looked all kinds of uncomfortable, and I’d had to ask Simon to come to me (again) which is what I’d been doing for the last fifteen minutes of waiting in line, trying to keep Simon from bothering the guy buying all the sushi and the woman with the shaved head and the monk’s robe (who I somehow thought should look enlightened or at least happy or even tolerant, yet the only way to describe her expression was disgruntled).
Tell him that the cashier had given Simon “Buddy Bucks” so he could go win stickers to save up for a prize, even though he doesn’t care about saving up for the prize; he just likes to put the sticker on his hand and wear it, going around all day with a yellow square that says “2 points” on it.
But I didn’t say anything to the guy because I’d rather let him be smugly satisfied with himself because I don’t owe him an explanation, and he wasn’t asking for an explanation. He was passing judgment on me and my son without knowing anything about us. And that’s his problem, not mine.
Main take-away point here?
How many times do I have to shout it from the rooftops?