Max sits in his seat and I feel a glimmer of hope. Maybe we are going to get to eat a nice meal after all. No sooner than I get comfortable and Max is gone. He had slid under the table and was crawling past the waiter bringing our food, almost tripping him in the process. Red faced I ignore all the stares to get my son. And then I hear the words I had uttered so many years ago, "That is a really bad kid!" Without even knowing where that voice was coming from I said loudly, "My son is not bad! He just has special needs!"
Perhaps I had jinxed myself years ago when I called Charlie a "bad" kid. Nowadays when I see a child acting up in public I try to refrain from all judgment. You never really know what is going on with a child. And what good does it ever do to place such a harsh value judgment upon a child? Now I replace the term, "bad" with "having a hard time" which is more likely the case in most instances.
My son Max is well known in our community. He makes himself known everywhere he goes. I am not going to shy away from taking him places because he is "different." Sometimes he squeals or sings or makes odd gestures and movements. But the people who know him well don't mind. It is just the looks from strangers that hurt, the people who don't know my son and just label him with some pejorative term.
Went to the mall this past weekend and heard someone yelling in this guttural deep voice. The sound carried through the mall. It was so loud that it made me startle. I was standing in line to make a purchase and the clerk there smiled at my startle and said, "Oh that is just Bobby. That sound means he is happy." The clerk's explanation made me want to cry. It could have easily been my son she was describing in such cheerful terms. Then I saw Bobby, a tall adolescent, I am guessing who had autism. His much shorter parents were leading him hand in hand through the aisles of the mall. When Bobby would make his sound people would laugh or stare. The parents, eyes lovingly glued to their son, marched forward through the crowds.
For all the Charlies, Maxes, and Bobbys out there I felt proud.