The Kindness of Strangers

  There was a boy at CVS pitching a horrible fit. Begging for candy. Screaming. Throwing himself on the floor. Speaking hatefully and brutally. His aunt was on the phone with his mother, trying to find a way between the two of them to get him to STOP. I passed another customer in the candy aisle, and she shot me a look. I returned it. My look said "That poor lady. How stressful for her." Then the customer leaned in to me, and whispered, conspiratorially, "Aren't you glad you don't have one like that at home?"

I stood. Shocked. And when I recovered, I blurted out the perfect thing. "What makes you think I don't?"

Visibly flustered, she ruffled her feathers like a distraught hen and retorted "Well, if you do I FEEL SORRY FOR YOU."

Yes ma'am. Please do. Parenting a neurologically atypical child is no picnic. Especially when your own neurons are not firing with normalcy themselves. By exchanging a look with the lady at CVS I was attempting to invite dialogue, not snark. Not interested in demoralizing a person who is already down.

I didn't help the lady whose nephew was giving her terrible stress. They left a few moments after my exchange with the fellow customer. What I hope I DID do was take away some of the US vs THEM mentality so many people feel in the parenting world by admitting that I am faced with some of the same stress. That the problem is not unique, and not limited to "bad" parents. I do wonder why the little boy was acting that way, just like I wonder about my own son. An effect must have a cause. But my curiosity came from a place of love, not judgement. Looking for the whys is not the same as judgement. But it can feel that way.

Today I was at the doctors office with my little guy, Felix, while I waited for my husband to have his appointment. A grandmother was there with three children. The little girl, about 6 years old, was crying angrily. The grandma was fed up and clearly overwhelmed. They were obviously low-income, and as someone in that tax bracket myself I can tell you that the less resources you have to feed and clothe and entertain, the crankier you get. At first I tried to ignore what was happening, because I didn't want to embarrass anyone. But then my little guy attempted to toddle out the door and I had to walk past the angry child to guide him back to where I was sitting.

I put my face close to her tear-stained one and asked "Do you like babies?" She nodded. "Would you like to play with my baby?" She excitedly agreed. "Did you bring any toys for him?" I did. I gave her my tote bag filled with a few board books, a soft-sided car, some keys. Her grandma scolded her for getting into my bag until I explained that it was toys for the baby...they were HELPING me. I could see the relief on her face. These kids weren't monsters! They were just tired and frustrated from spending a long time in a waiting room that wasn't designed for them.

All anger and tears forgotten, they happily talked to Felix, showed him his book and his car. When their mother emerged from the doctor's office, little brother in tow, I was actually disappointed. "You aren't taking my babysitters away, are you?" I joked. "Thanks, you really helped me out" I said to the little girl, who was delighted to be spoken to like a grownup. "You helped ME" said the grandmother.

I made small talk with the mom for a few minutes, about her baby, about both of us having 3 boys and one girl, and then they were on their way, and I think all of us had our day brightened. The opportunity arose to be kind, and to allow kindness to come my way, and we were all richer for it.