People. They can be amazing, extraordinary, beautiful, and sometimes mean. This week in our house, it felt like those mean people were swarming around us, just waiting to sting when we least expected it.
It started at the state fair. While in one of the millions of lines for food at the fair, a bright-pink-lipstick-wearing fifty-something lady behind us looked at me at said, “Excuse me,” in a clear, demeaning, snarky voice. I had no idea why she said that so I gave her my dead-behind-the-eyes look (behind sunglasses, mind you) and awkward smile. She must have sensed my confusion, because she sarcastically said, “That’s what you usually say when you bump into someone,” while looking at Cameron.
Mommy defensiveness kicked in and I said, “Oh. He has sensory issues,” to which Cameron, on cue, growled loudly because he didn’t really want me telling fair-goers about his business. I turned away from her and quietly said, “Sorry, Cameron, I had to tell her because she’s being a ‘B.’”
“She’s being what?” he asked.
“She’s being mean,” I responded with light-speed thinking. “And when you bump into people, you really need to say, ‘Excuse me.’”
“I didn’t bump into her!” he said. And honestly, I believe he didn’t realize he had.
I was ready to let it go, but my husband Jon was not. “Are you really that upset about that?” he asked the grump.
“Move along,” she snapped, while dismissively waving her hands to move him forward.
“You must have some life,” said Jon. Ouch. We waited uneasily for another five minutes or so that felt more like 30 minutes, while Jon turned redder and redder, fuming from her ridiculousness. I told him to relax, that Cameron really should have said, “Excuse me,” and that it’s not that big of a deal, but he could not get past that someone would be that irritated at a fair where you can’t take two steps without bumping into some person or animal, and who would be so angry with a kid for being a kid.
The next day, my kids were playing at the YMCA indoor play area. Cameron and Amelia were screaming and laughing loudly, which made me feel anxious. I am forever worried about bothering other people. When I’m driving, I rush to get out of the left lane when other drivers are behind me, when I’m shopping, I always make sure my cart is out of the way. This may sound just like manners to some people, but it makes me feel extremely, heart-racingly uncomfortable when I know I’m in the way or bothering other people. So when my kids were screaming like kids do, I tried to relax and let it go, but found that it was too much for me to handle. On my way to quiet them and give them the two minute warning, I passed two kids sitting at a table watching the play area, and I heard one of them say, “That’s that weird kid in there.”
With a broken heart, I looked at him and said, “That’s my kid in there, so… you know… that’s cool (sarcasm font needed here).” He didn’t say anything, but I heard him and his friend continuing to talk about Cameron while I neglected the two-minute warning and ushered my kids out of there as fast as I could before I said or did something I would regret to those little… word-that-you-should-never-use-to-describe-children.
So, my kid is the “weird” kid. I looked at those kids, and thought about how “coolness” seemed to be naturally oozing out of them with their long, shaggy hair, awesome eight-year-old swag, and general ease of life. I thought of Duckie in “Pretty in Pink” and how that could be my son. I thought of myself and how I struggled with my lack of cool in school, and how I’m still uncomfortable in my own skin more than a grown-up should be. I am quirky. Why would I expect my children to be anything but that? I certainly LOVE that they are “odd.” They both have imaginations that could rival Steven Spielberg’s. They love nature, they collect bugs, rocks, shells, wood, or whatever other artifacts they think are interesting in the given moment. Cameron loves his stuffed animals, his precious yellow blanket, cars, and Playmobil, but he’s not a big fan of Legos- of course, since that’s too much fine-motor for his fingers to handle.
But I think I really know why those kids said that. When Cameron plays, he is loud, he makes crazy, loud (annoying) noises, he is too touchy-feely, and he is a forever-bossy rule-maker. He makes up rules for everything from how to go down a slide to how to play kickball. Honestly, it’s annoying. I am his mother, and I know these behaviors are due to the fact that he is not physically feeling things like other kids. He is loud because he gets over-stimulated and his energy comes out through his mouth. He is touchy-feely because just watching people around him isn’t enough for his senses; he needs to feel them. He is a rule-maker because he feels so out of control of his senses, he needs to have control of everything else.
Jon and I have talked to him about these things. We’ve been blunt, frustrated, embarrassed for him, understanding, patient, impatient, loving, and any other way we can be. Cameron does not change these behaviors. He cannot control himself when he’s in the moment, even if he knows that kids will think he’s “weird,” because I have literally told him that before. So, now what? It’s happening. Kids think he’s weird.
So now, I pray, I use “The Secret,” I hope, I send positive juju into the universe, for Cameron to find friends who see him for who he is and not his surface reactions to things, and for him to keep the good friends that he already has. I want to protect him from the self-consciousness that was my childhood, but I know that’s impossible. While I don’t really like the bossiness he exhibits, I don’t want him to change, and I don’t think the resilient and stubborn Cameron will change. I just want him to embrace the “weird” and continue to find others who do the same, just like I did.