Sometimes you just get so mad you feel the urge to attack a rainbow pony. No? Is that just me? Maybe, in this situation, you would have been mad at the rainbow pony as well. We just celebrated my son’s twelfth birthday yesterday. It never ceases to amaze me how fast time flies. Every year for his birthday, I usually write about Down Syndrome and how it has changed our lives for the better. I didn’t have time to make the post yesterday because we went to “Boo at The Zoo.”
But yesterday another Mom publicly yelled at me for my son’s behavior and the Momma Bear claws came out. I have been working so hard to adopt this zen mentality about understanding others and empathizing if they haven’t had the experiences that parenting a child with special needs have given me.
This woman pushed me too far. I was mad. I mean I was ridiculously angry. This was also at a Halloween event at a zoo and I was wearing a hot pink glittery tutu and a glow in the dark wig. She was dressed as a rainbow pony. I wanted to take the rainbow pony tail off of her butt and smack her with it. The hilarity of the news story that would have come from that didn’t hit me until I had calmed down, about 6 hours and 2 glasses of wine later. “Woman in pink tutu attacks woman dressed as a rainbow pony in local zoo. Santa Zombie and Tiny Oompaloopa were innocent bystanders. According to them the attack was unprompted…”
The zoo was busy, I mean like people packed like sardines between elephants, hippos and sloths. I don’t like crowded places any more than my son. It makes me nervous. It is supposed to be child friendly but that didn’t stop some people from making devil costumes with gory and gruesome gashes and bloody gross things all over their faces. The thoughts that were going through my mind were that there are very bad people in this world, they could be anywhere in the park and I have to keep a constant headcount on my little ghouls and princesses. T Man, my son with Down Syndrome, has no interest in candy but lots of interest in the animals. When we were waiting on the other kids to get their candy he wandered off. He wandered off again and again and again. The over protective mother in me was analyzing, statistically speaking, out of the probably 5,000 people there, how many of them were child predators and how easy it would be to blend in with the crowd and disappear in the blink of an eye.
Every time that thought went through my overactive mind, I would realize he was gone, AGAIN. After about an hour of this I was a special kind of exhausted. That was about the time that he found the playground and climbed to the top of a bridge thing with a tall treehouse type thing and refused to come down. The rest of the group had taken off somewhere and I didn’t know where that place was going to be. I was tired, grumpy and at the end of my emotional rope with chasing him in a (possibly unrealistic) fear of perverts patrolling the park. I was trying not to loose my patience and normally I would have been kind of silly with him if this was at the top of the slide or something and have slid down the slide with him but this thing would have been completely socially inappropriate for me to climb up there with him. I was walking around this treehouse contraption trying to coax him out and was shot in the back with a nerf gun. I had no idea how this happened, but hey, I have 3 kids. If I make it through an entire day without being shot by a nerf gun, my kids are probably sick. I kind of laughed it off because I was still trying to fake that I wasn’t nearing an emotional cliff when this rainbow pony decided to point out that I had walked through a game her kids were playing. Then she continued to tell me how rude and inconsiderate I was being and she said a bunch of things under her breath about how some people ruin fun activities for her kids as she stomped off.
At that point, I abruptly fell off that emotional cliff and almost every ounce of restraint that I still had was lost. I was mad at T man for not listening to me, but I love him and I understand that the WHOLE reason for this escapade was just because he had different interests than the other kids and I was asking him to ignore his own interests and conform to the group. Why was I doing this? Because I understand that there are dangers in the world he knows nothing about; because it is easier for me if he would just conform. Was it fair of me? Absolutely not.
Did she have a right to belittle me because of this whole thing? No, not even a little bit. I had no idea there was a game going on. My sole priority at that moment was the safety of my child. I had four kids with me that day and honestly was just hoping that the other three were still with the group. I just can’t watch four kids that carefully when one of them refuses to stay with the group. Even after this insensitive rainbow pony belittled me, T man continued to ignore my requests to come down off the treehouse thing. At that point my Mom came over and started talking to me and because I knew subconsciously that if I yelled at her she wouldn’t call the cops, there is a chance that I yelled at her and threw a grown up temper tantrum at the base of a treehouse dressed in a tutu at a zoo. While that is not my proudest moment and I did realize the idiocy of my own behavior, I wanted rainbow pony to see how rude and insensitive her behavior was. It was killing me not to go back and explain to her that OBVIOUSLY I have a child with special needs who was having a moment of struggle and her typically developing child could have (and did) very easily pick up the nerf dart and shoot it at the target again, without me ignorantly standing in the way. The child did this whole thing without reaction to my rudeness of walking through the game. I was praying the prize for that game was that the child won a shrill sounding, ear piercingly loud whistle. I thought that would be perfect karma.
I wanted to share this story partly because I no longer have any shame and thought it may entertain you, but also, Moms, why can’t we stick together? Why can’t we model empathy and understanding for our kids? Rainbow pony’s child (I refuse to capitalize her nickname, except at the beginning of a sentence, to signify the level of disrespect that she gave me) didn’t blink an eye when I accidentally interrupted the game. She, however, belittled another human being in front of her child. What did the child learn from that? The child had a lesson in self entitlement. He learned that even though it was a completely chaotic environment shared with thousands of other people, he had more of a right to a space within that environment than anyone else. He observed that even though the intruder initially apologized for interrupting the game that it was still ok to belittle them. He observed a complete lack of empathy and understanding for other humans.
Kids watch us. They learn from us. Now that I’m kind of “over” this whole upset, I hope that any children that observed my temper tantrum either a) witnessed a real struggle between two people, one with a communication delay and one without, b) realized that people with Down Syndrome are not “always happy” or even c) laughed at the woman in a glittery pink tutu and a glow in the dark wig having a meltdown at a zoo. I held back and did not approach rainbow pony, even though it was torture for me inside. Now I can rest easy knowing that at least MY children never witnessed me acting out on my emotions and yelling (or worse) at a woman who treated me unfairly. I modeled the very real struggle that is “taking the high road.”
(Yes, I realize, I did blog about it, which might be slightly acting out. So, if you are a rainbow pony this year who wants your child to have an unrealistic and unfair sense of self entitlement, well, now you know how I feel.)