January 2, 2015

a letter

To the Mother at the very crowded play area;

If you weren't sitting with your nose in the phone, you would have seen my son. Perhaps you would have noticed his almond eyes or his ears that sit low and stick out. I'm sure you would have seen him struggle.

You would have seen him waiting with all his might for his turn to climb the structure. You would have seen me right there with him, my hands placed on his chest reminding him that he has to wait. Maybe you would have shook your head while he shouted and banged on the floor a few times. I understood that he was shouting, "Me Please" and I was happy that he was hitting the floor and not the child.

You would have seen the glee on my son's face when it was finally his turn. As I released my hands, he climbed right up and joyfully sat at the top. You would have seen your daughter climb right up behind him, invading his personal space. You would have seen my son turn around and touch her face and say (rather loudly), "NO."

You would have watched your daughter gently scoot herself back off then flop to the floor like a silent movie star. After a moment where she realized that you were not paying any attention and merely laying on the floor wasn't enough, she started fake crying.

You would have seen her make a fuss while I looked around. Maybe you would have noticed the look on my face. I'm sure you wouldn't have understood the countless times I've had to apologize to people for my son's behavior. How places like the play area highlight my son's differences. How badly I want him to just be able to play with a large group of kids without the struggle. How I knew in my heart that he was not wrong this time. He reacted in the most perfect way possible for him - even if it did upset your daughter - I was proud of him.

If only you looked up from your phone, your daughter wouldn't have had to increase the volume of her complaints. When you finally noticed her and came to her side asking her what was wrong, my stomach tied into an instant knot.

Had you been watching your child instead of your phone, you would not have looked at me with disgust on your face and said, "How mean. Your son just pushed her off."

I understand the Mama Bear reaction. Really I do. Maybe this was your only chance to sit and do your own thing. I get it. But you just didn't have all the facts.

I tired to stay calm, but my heart was beating so hard and my ears were burning. I kindly explained to you that my son has Down syndrome and how your daughter was right in his face. I told you that he did touch her face but he did not push her nor did he hurt her. But I did not apologize.

I would have loved to stay for your response, but at that point my son was running off to the next fun adventure and my responsibility is to keep him and those around him safe.

I'm guessing you have forgotten what happened yesterday. You have no way to know that such a small interaction would sit so heavily in my gut, festering overnight.

The only thing I want from you is to look up once in a while. Notice the child who isn't behaving like all the others. Have some empathy. Chances are that child has something going on inside their little body that makes life really hard for them. Maybe even extend that empathy to their parent who have to help their child navigate a confusing and overwhelming world.

Just have some empathy. You never know what kind of struggles the other person is facing.

The mom of this boy.

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