To The Table of Compassion & Empathy, Thank You!

We had a whole slew of errands to get through this morning and it’s not always easy to make a lot of stops with Brian in tow as transitions are very tricky for him.  He started fussing after the third stop so like any great Mom, I bribed him and his brother with some fast food before we went to our final stop.

He skipped in happily but when we got in there I asked his older brother to wait with him while I rushed into the restroom.  I often don’t leave Brian with his older brother in public, even though his older brother is very responsible.  But we don’t always know what will set Brian off and I don’t want Corbin to feel responsible for any meltdown that may ensue.  The days are gone that I can easily bring Brian into a public restroom with me, as he has been working hard on reading signs and understanding private vs. public.  He’s adamant he needs to go in the Men’s room and that he can’t go in the Women’s and it’s causing a new set of issues, particularly if we are on the town by ourselves.  Family restrooms are the holy grail and we appreciate whenever we see them pop up out in our world.

I could actually hear him start crying while I was still in the restroom.  I ran my hands through the soap and water and ran out of the restroom with them still dripping, as I couldn’t waste a second with the air dryers.

The second Corbin saw me he said, “I can’t deal with this”, and he ran off into the men’s room.  I took Brian’s hand and we stepped up to order, at this point Brian laughing and saying what he wanted.  I was confused as to what had happened.

Corbin emerged and we sat down to eat.  Corbin had been able to take a breather and was then able to tell me what had ensued. He thought Brian was confused that they had to wait for me to come out of the restroom so we could order, which was probably right.  He had apparently thrown his coat off, thrown himself on the ground, and in the midst of it Corbin said that he thought he might have kicked someone who was sitting at a table.  I asked Corbin to identify which table it was.

I got up from our meal and I wandered over to the table that he had pointed to.  It was a group of five adults all laughing and enjoying themselves.

I took a deep breath and in one breath said, “Excuse me, I’m sorry to interrupt.  My son said that my other son may have kicked one of you while he was having a hard time and I wanted to apologize.  He has autism, and in no way am I using that as an excuse for his behavior, but it makes it hard for him to process what is always going on and he isn’t able to access coping mechanisms when he gets that upset.”

They all smiled and offered words, “Oh please, no need to apologize”, “We’ve all had kids, we understand.”, and “I find it hard to wait to get my food too”.

I’ve been met with all sorts of reactions in public.  Stares, unkind words, unsolicitied parenting advice, and down-right mean comments.  You have to understand, that I didn’t really want to approach that table because of the way Brian and myself have been treated in the past.  But I had to, to show Corbin that we can’t be ashamed of Brian and also that we do need to be the bigger person and apologize and educate when we need to.

And for that table of five strangers to smile and understand, meant the world to me. A simple trip out to a fast food restaurant can be tricky for our family.  And it’s often tempting to just be hermits.  Tiny little acts of kindness, can really make a difference to a family like ours.  So a huge thank you to that table of five today.  Thank you for showing some compassion and empathy, I truly appreciated it.

Heather Nelson

About Heather Nelson

Heather resides in Rockland where she is busy juggling life as a newlywed, a mom to two boys (one of which who has autism), a part time job in direct sales, and a full-time job as a pediatric occupational therapy assistant. She has a love for live music, karaoke, and cheering on the underdogs.