Well, it’s surprising that it hasn’t happened to me yet, but I finally had this special needs mom moment.
I got the “look” at the grocery store. (Duh duh DUUUUNNN)
William has certain landmarks when we go. He has to push all the buttons on the pop machines, he has to listen to the whir of the berry cooler, and he has to look at the temperature gauges on the meat cooler that holds that week’s features. The first two are fairly out of the way of cart traffic. But the last one is kinda right in the middle of the aisle, and I do my best to park my cart in an out-of-the-way position while William does his thing.
This time, I was pushing my cart toward the meat cooler. A college-aged couple was walking towards us, headed for checkout, and we had one of those awkward are-you-going-left-or-am-I moments. Ultimately, I made for the coolers at the same time they did, which apparently was very wrong of me, and they both stared at me like I was nuts for a second. I held my ground, because this was my destination. Then he heaved a gigantic sigh and, in an exaggerated sort of way, pushed his cart around me and my kids, while his girlfriend stared me down. It was the full-body, two-person equivalent of an eyeroll.
At first I chuckled to myself because it was so college, like, back before your job can be lost, or your marriage can end or you deal with infertility or your kid’s in the ER. What a day-ruiner, having to push your cart a foot and a half out of the way, right? BECAUSE I HAVE ACTUAL PROBLEMS.
Then I was mad. That’s my autistic child they’re misreading and judging me by. Ugh! Terrible people!
Then I was jealous because they’re going to go home now with the four items in their mini-cart and talk about the idiot parent at the grocery store they’re never going to be like, and then they’ll take their time making a romantic dinner for two and eat it at 8:30 without a care in the world. But me? Poor me. I’m going to take my scorned face home and try to manage dinner time with three kids who, when they’re hungry, somewhat resemble rabid tigers.
Then I laughed because someday in about ten years they’ll maybe figure out what life with kids is like. HOW YA LIKE ME NOW?
Then I realized I’d thought about those co-eds for like 30 minutes, and now I’m home, ignoring my children and fantasizing about what kind of snarky thing I’d say if I could have that moment back.
I’m an idiot. All the places I’d been in my mind with those two, and not one of those places was patience. Not one of those places involved me seeing this as an opportunity to experience and live out grace. Most of those places involved how righteous I believed I am because of our hardship, how indignant I deserved to be.
St. Innocent brings me low, thanks be to God. He says this:
“The word cross means sufferings, sorrows, and adversities. There are external and internal crosses. To take up one’s cross means to accept and to bear without murmuring everything unpleasant, painful, sad, difficult, and oppressive that may happen to us in our life. And therefore, whether anyone offends you, or laughs at you, …bear all this without malice, without murmuring, without criticism, without complaint, that is, without regarding yourself as offended and without expecting any earthly reward in return; but bear it all with love, with joy and firmness.” –St. Innocent, Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven
Sorry, college kids. That was my bad.
I’m sorry there was a bit of a snarl on my face when you saw it last. I’m sorry I had bad thoughts about you.
I hope that you had a nice dinner.
Because someday, if it hasn’t already, something will hurt you and make you think you’ll never be the same again. And you won’t be. But that’s okay, because you’ll be glad those changes were forced in you, even though you hate how it happened.
And I really, really hope that someday you stumble upon my son’s path, or the path of someone like him. Because knowing him is a true gift.
God bless you on your way.