Maybe I’m having a particularly ambitious day and I’ve ventured to the grocery store with my 3-year-old who doesn’t walk or talk and my 2-month-old newborn. Things are going swimmingly, i.e. nothing has been broken (my will included) and no one is screaming or crying. I head to the check out feeling accomplished and extra proud of my two, sweet boys. Then the cashier, taken with Bryce, feels the need to tell me what a good, quiet boy he is.
She couldn’t possibly know that I’d give me right leg to hear him say ‘mommy’.
Or maybe, okay actually, I took them both to my postpartum follow up appointment. And even though I had the wrong stroller, forcing me to push the 10-pounder while carrying the 25-pounder, it was a success. Crying was minimal, newborn manageable and Bryce sat independently in an adult chair for the whole visit, only nose diving off once in the waiting room while I was tending to momentarily screaming baby Gage.
But then as I plop Bryce down in the chair across from the nice appointments lady she says hi to him, as people often do. Only when he doesn’t say anything back – because he can’t talk – she actually has the nerve to ask/demand he say hi back to her.
Sometimes I just smile and nod, keeping my feelings to myself. Sometimes, like at the doctor’s office, I use the shortest, simplest explanation possible. Most of the time people get the clue and give in to a moment of uncomfortable silence before I can be on my way. And while I suspect that their encounter with us is short lived in their memory it can often take an unreasonable toll on me.
My natural instinct is to protect my young and while in today’s world the likelihood is that won’t mean fending off a lion attack it might now mean fending off the rude assumptions of strangers. I can’t help but wonder how I’ll cope with this as Bryce gets older and both needs and wants to interact more with people. While I still have high hopes that he’ll eventually talk, he’ll likely always need some special accommodations.
It’ll be my job to help him understand people’s best intentions, to cope with hurtful words and to navigate the slippery social slope of being a special needs child.