"EWWWWWW! She's so gross!!"
"Yuck! Don't touch her!"
"Ahhhhh! Run Away! She's crazy!"
"Ew, look at her!"
The pack of little boys aged 3 to 6, were running up, screaming, laughing and mocking another child. This child, much older than they were, was sitting on the floor drooling profusely on herself, making funny sounds, staring and laughing at nothing, and flapping her hands wildly in the air. The child at the center of their verbal jabs and laughter was MY child. My CB. She was their freak show. They were openly and unabashedly teasing my child. My defenseless,happy, totally different and unique child.
And a knife stabbed into the flesh of my heart. The part that beats solely for her.
I was at a friend's child's birthday party with all 4 of my girls. I am always hesitant to take CB to parties and events where there are people there I don't know as well. I worry about the reactions of others and about what CB may do... how she'll act... what everyone will think. Sometimes I'm worrying that she'll start humping the floor. Other times I'm worried she'll crap in her diaper and I'll have no where to change a 5 foot tall 80 pound girl. Sometimes I'm worried about her breaking the hostess's priceless heirloom or that she'll push, scratch or kick a 15 month old who got too close. Sometimes I worry that she will slip out the back door and get herself halfway to the interstate before we find her. Seldom have I worried about mean, brazen teasing. I guess now I can add that to my list.
Though this type of thing doesn't happen to us too often when it does, I usually feel like I'm going to spit venom and go postal on the brats. I'm always able to hold back and instead use it as a "teaching moment." This time, however, my reaction was notably different. This time, I was oddly calm. Or perhaps not calm. More defeated. Numb. I brushed it off... let it go.
So, what did I do? I wish I could say my actions were noble, but they were the actions of a woman who was defeated by the cruelty of the world in which we live. I silently walked over to CB, lifted her up under her arms and quietly escorted her into the next room away from the boys. A place where I could see her and where other adults could bear witness and address their OWN children so as I wouldn't have to, because I'm just exhausted mentally and physically. Sometimes I don't feel like I want to educate every single person about CB's disabilities. I don't want to give preemptive explanations, autism lessons, or apologies. Sometimes, I don't want to feel different. I don't want HER to be different. I just want to go to a party with all my children and not feel like everyone is staring at her, let alone making FUN of her. Treating her as if she were a gross, twisted side-show or demented trick pony. Sometimes I just want a mental break from how others see her disability and just want to go out as a family and feel "normal."
So, life goes on. Forgive and forget. They were children and I knew many of them and knew they were good kids. I also felt like I understood why I responded the way I did - with resignation. With silence. I gave myself a break. I owed it to myself, right? I can't be "on" all the time.
Then, today, I thought about it again, and I felt the sudden pang of guilt and shame, because I realized that my decision to stay silent was a selfish one. Self preservational perhaps, but selfish nonetheless. It was selfish because I put myself and my mood above my own child's value - a vulnerable child who needs me most. I am her only voice. And whether she notices or computes or cares about the teasing is a moot point, as is the fact that I'm tired or embarrassed or drained. The voice I use to educate, yell, cry, help, heal, forgive is not only my voice, and my crusades are not mine alone. I owe it to all children and adults who are seen as less than valuable or beautiful simply because they have disability that isn't "pretty" and makes others uncomfortable.
I owe it to all of them. I owe even more to my little girl. I am her only voice, and I let her down when I chose to stay silent.