The other day we went holiday shopping with my folks and the minions. After Molly and Jack had picked out their Christmas gifts from Nana and Papa we went out to Swiss Chalet together for dinner. About half way through our meal a young man, about 15 or 16 years old approached our table. He was wearing a white button down shirt and a pair of black pants and I assumed that he was a junior staff member or busboy. He asked me if I was I was the mom, to which I said yes. Next he asked me how old the minions were, what Molly and Jack's names were and then how to spell them. I suspected this was for their dessert or something that came with their kids meal. Next he turned to me and said, "Does he have a syndrome? Because he really looks like he has a syndrome."
Jack poses with Barney the Bear at Grandma and Grandpas.
"Mama Bear" came with her claws out and paws a swinging. I very curtly, and loudly, said no and asked him, "Could you please leave our table right now?". I was incensed, I was furious. He said okay and walked back to his table where his mom was sitting, he was holding a doll, that I hadn't seen previously. It was then clear to me that he did not work there and that perhaps the a-hole had been me. His mom had either not noticed "the incident" or was pretending that she had not noticed.
My parents turned to me, asked me what was wrong with me, told me to lighten up and calm down. Although everyone else at the table had also assumed the boy was restaurant staff, they figured out that he was a person with a learning disability around the same time that I got angry. It finally dawned on me after I had asked the boy to leave, that he sought Jack out and was trying to connect with him because he thought they had something in common and I had shut him down because of my own insecurities about Jack and his language and social development. Jack was unphased and continued eating his chicken and fries and my family continued to "poke the bear" asking me why I am so mean. I debated going over to the table to apologize, but the boy seemed unbothered by my response so I decided to just let it lie.
Almost every time I fill out a form for Jack about his speech therapy and our new learning goals I have to fill out a question about what concerns me most. Lately I've been putting in things like, Jack being left out, Jack not being included with other kids, Jack not being able to relate to other kids. Basically, I want him to make friends, be happy and feel included. I'm coming to realize that while Jack definitely needs speech therapy to increase his social skills and better interact with his peers, the person who's most stressed out over his inclusion in "all the reindeer games" is me, not Jack. These are my issues, not his.
One evening a few months ago Molly kept on saying that Jack was dumb and calling him dummy. I tore a strip off her, big time, in a way that was probably over the top - because of my own "Mama Bear" fears that others will call him names. Logically I know that Jack is a smart little guy and that, as his sister, it's Molly's given right to give him a hard time. If my mom went all Grizzly Bear on us every time we teased or called each other names, she'd have spent a heck of a lot of time disciplining us.
I didn't want to write this post, but then Chris talked to me about why it's important for me to share this sort of thing. Parenting can be an exercise in getting over your own insecurities and even though there are a number of things that I won't and don't share, avoiding this would be inauthentic.
I think I've found my first New Year's resolution: To take a deep breath, assess the situation and keep in mind that most of the time people mean well, no matter how much what they are saying upsets me before I go Kodiak on someone. That's not to say that "Mama Bear" is in hibernation mode. Don't mess with her cubs!
To read about some of the important things I've learned in our journey with Jack surrounding speech and language therapy click here.
To read about our first language assessment click here.