Sunday, October 02, 2005

Well Of Course He Is. That's How My Life Works.

I need to post about a partcular incident, just so I can get it out of my head.

Before I tell it though, there is something I need to say first. I'm not going to make excuses for myself. I will explain my thought process, but I'm not expecting anyone to say "aww gee, well it really is ok." Because it's really not ok with me - although I've made my peace with it for now. And the only thing that matters is how I deal with it in the future.

Thursday morning I went to my coffee place as I always do. C usually drives us to work, so he waits in the car while I get my coffee whistle.

On this particular day, there was no line. I was at the counter alone, there are two registers. A lady came tearing into the shop and rushed right up to the other register. She nearly ran me over, because I was somewhat standing in between the two stations. I was wating for my coffee and my muffin.

A few seconds later, I felt the presence of a child to the right of me. He was shoving his way between me and his...I presume....mother. He kept rapidly tapping me on my right hip. I looked over and decided he must have been about 10 or 11. I was a bit annoyed, but ignored it for the most part. His mom began to sternly speak to him in a language I couldn't understand.

The second my muffin/coffee hit the counter, I reached for it. The child then took both of his hands, placed them on my right hip and shoved me as hard as he could out of his way.

When I caught my balance I was FUMING. I was also completely shocked that a kid would push me! I stared him straight in the face, and he just looked at me like he wanted me dead. I then said to him, rather angrily "You do know you aren't supposed to push people, RIGHT?" He said NOTHING. His Mom said in English "Did you hear what she said to you!!!???"

I was so angry, and shocked at the same time that I just turned on my heels and quickly walked out of the store. I got in the car with C and tried to explain why I had "that look" on my face.

When I was done, C said "Honey, is that the kid you are talking about right there? The one coming out of the store?" When I said yes, it was, he continued "Well, I think he has issues."

My heart broke and then it sank to the lowest parts of my body. I was SICK. How could I have yelled at a "special" kid? What the hell was wrong with me? I asked him why he thought he might have issues, and he said that he had seen the kid outside kindof flailing before they entered the shop.

C says that even though he might have had a mental issue, I should still expect not to be shoved in public by perfect strangers. Be it a child or adult. And to a degree I agree with him. And I can tell myself that my reaction to a stranger even touching me was a lot more restrained than that which I was feeling at the moment - but I still feel really bad about it. Not only that, but if he indeed has issues, his care taker didn't seem to be very nurturing. But then again, I don't know a damn thing about kids in the first place.

I just wish I had taken the time to think about it before I reacted. THINK. C thinks perhaps the child was autistic. By all outward appearances, he looked "normal" enough. I wish I had asked his mother - "Could you explain to me why your child just pushed me?"

If I had done so, perhaps she would have said "I'm sorry, he's got this or that issue." I could have lived with that. I would have made room. I would have allowed them to go ahead of me.

And if the child has issues, is it wrong of me to expect the mom or guardian or whoever to let me know? To explain after the first physical contact that this is an extraordinary circumstance? Part of me says yes, it is wrong for me to expect that. Why should she have to tell everyone she interracts with why he's doing what he's doing? And maybe it's the first time he's actually physically reached out to a stranger?

The other part of me wonders why a mother wouldn't want to protect her child by letting the people around him know why these things are happening.

I'm also angry at myself for assuming. I assumed a lot of things in a split second. 1. Because I heard her talk to him in a stern way, I think I assumed she was trying to get him to behave. 2. I assumed it was ok to just address him directly instead of asking/venting at the mom. If I were a mom, I'd have to think a stranger addressing my child directly would anger me very much. Protective instincts would come out and I'd want to be the one to take care of the issue.


Rev. Brandy said...

Dearest Z., my CA sister:

First, I have to say that when I got about halfway through your post, right around the line "How could I have yelled at a "special" kid?", I did laugh. And I apologize for that, because as I read further, I realized your torment over the whole issue. Your frustration with the mother/caretaker, your frustration with being shoved, your frustration with yourself. And I also realized how inappropriate it was to think the situation was funny. Because, it's not.

But . . .

My laughter is, in a small way, a lot like the assumption for which you now feel conflicted. I assumed that your story was going to be funny . . . have a "Zoooom"-erific ending, filled with humor and self-awareness. I also assumed that you were going to wrap it all up in a nice, neat little bow, and you were going to be OK with it . . . despite the opening paragraph that (should have) warned me otherwise.

It does happen in a split-second, that assumption thing. That doesn't make it any better, per se, but it sure explains how fast things literally move beyond our conscious ability to choose things other than base reactions. And I'll tell you something else: no matter what the child's circumstances truly were --- being shoved by someone old enough and strong enough to give you a good, unexpected push would certainly cause even the most patient person to feel confused, flustered and defensive. A lot of that is just our basic human fight-or-flight reactions.

I give you a tremendous amount of credit for having the thought process around C's observation that you did . . . and for beating yourself up about all the things you could have done differently (and wish you had). That, alone, distinguishes you in the situation. And think of this: without this experience to give you a frame of reference, you wouldn't be prepared to react differently next time. You wouldn't have context in which to place the next kid-acting-out-in-public scenario. Now, you do.

Life is just experience. Think of what this particular experience taught you . . . and try not to beat yourself black and blue over it.

theresa said...

Rev. Brandy pretty much said it all, but I'll add a couple more thoughts anyway, cuz I'm kinda yacky like that.

You wouldn't be thinking about this (or writing about it) if you weren't a compassionate person. Even if you decide that you made a mistake, you can't change it.

I used to work at a deli with a guy who had Tourettes Syndrome. He's fairly well-known in town because he's a remarkable sax player in a couple different bands. His Tourette's symptoms include shouting words like "CUNT". This wasn't usually a problem at work unless we had a customer who didn't know him or didn't recognize it as a Tourette's symptom. However, when there was a problem, someone needed to help the customer who was confused rather than blame them for not having all the information.

We're enrolled in the school of life until the very end.

ZooooM said...

Thanks guys.

Don't feel bad Rev. I've been using humor to sort it out, i.e., "I totally yelled at a special kid the other day, don't think I won't take you out in a second" <---- Usually directed at attorneys pissing me off at the moment.

T, thanks for the "CUNT" example. It's nice to know there are all kinds of situations that can cause one to fly off the handle without having all the facts. It's not pretty, or anything I hope to do again, but I feel a little more human and a lot less - jackassy.

The Idiot said...

Speaking of the school of life experience;

Note to self when next presented with a similar situation.

Keep your big yapper shut about your observations about flailing little kids.

Call me insensitive, but the part that Zoom left out was me trying to help her get her head around this by explaining to her about the "rules". We all live under the binds of the rules of social engagement and interaction. What we aren't supposed to do. What we are supposed to do. When to do this. When to do that. The fact that this kid has issues doesn't make that any less true. In a way, we all have issues and yet we deal. I fully understand that there are those with more sizeable and gnarly issues that make adhering to the rules very difficult, but we/he/she/they don't all get special rules because of whatever specialty we/he/she/they are afflicted with.

If we did, how the hell would we know which way was up?

Simply put, where does it end? "Holy crap, that kid just kicked me in the jimmy!" "Oh, you'll have to excuse him physically assualting you, he's got the Tourette's really bad".

Politely reinforcing the need for manners and common courtesy does make you any less of a person. It's what a lot of people ought to do to a lot of other people a lot more often.