There is a convenience store in our town that my son and I stop in pretty regularly. The employees are very nice to him. One in particular seems to be very interested in him and his diagnosis and really goes out of his way to try to talk with him.
A few weeks back, there weren’t many customers so he began asking questions about him. I never mind when people ask questions; I’d rather they ask than stare or shy away from him.
One thing led to another and he began to tell me that they do not have the system that we have in his country. In his country the families take care of their disabled children. He proceeded to say (which I’m sure he thought was a compliment) that I take care of my son, but other customers who come in with disabled children and adults ask for receipts for what they are buying.
I really didn’t understand at first what one thing had to do with the other but he explained – “I ask them why they need a receipt and they tell me it is for the child/adult’s father or some company”.
In the first place, why would he ask anyone why they needed a receipt? And then why would anyone feel obligated to answer that question?
He proceeded to tell me again that, in his country, the families take care of their own children. He automatically made the assumption that if someone else is with your child, a staff person, or a person from a group home that the parents are not taking care of their own children!
Immediately the pointing finger came out (I really have to learn to control the “finger wagging”) and I said “Oh, no. Do not judge people because someone else happens to be with their child at that time!”
I tried to explain to him that, in my case, my son has been with me and I have done just about everything for him all of his life but now I too have staff people with him a couple of hours every day after he gets home from work because he needs to learn to be independent from me. I don’t like it at all, but I know it’s the best thing for him. I’m always convinced that I am the biggest detriment to his independence.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to finish my speech as customers were coming in and I could see that he was getting uncomfortable because he thought he’d offended me, which he did. When people make those kinds of assumptions whether it be about me or not, I DO take offence. I suppose I just could have let him believe that I was not one of those “awful” people pawning their child off on someone else; he would never know any different, but I just couldn’t let it go.
Partially, I think I react that way because I DO feel guilty when I am not with him. All I was looking for when all of this began was some type of program after school so I didn’t have to continue cutting my hours at work to make it home before he arrived from school. I’ve been a single mother for nearly 20 years, and I have to work; fulltime, always have, it’s only me supporting us. What I ended up with was staff hours for life skills, community, and activities. And yes, I know it’s the best thing for him, but after 3 years with this staff (they are wonderful, don’t get me wrong), I still feel guilty. His staff is only here from 3pm – 5pm, and then they accompany him to some night activities as well – activities that I would normally have taken him to. But, I feel like I’m being judged by people, my neighbors that weren’t living here all of the years that it was just me and just people in general who have no idea what this is all about, like the man in the store.
I wanted to ask the cashier just what happens to the children is his country when the families are gone or too old to take care of these children? They’ve been sheltered all of their lives, what becomes of them? How to they adjust to having no one? I don’t know anything about his country, I don’t even know what country he is from, but I feel that here, at least in this house, we are not trying to shelter our kids by just keeping them safe and out of the way and never learning or experiencing life, the best life they can have. I am hoping to help him become as independent as he can be and if that means letting someone else take the reins for a couple of hours a day, then that’s what I am going to do.
I know he’s not a bad person and I was sorry I made him feel uncomfortable, but I am really hoping to finish this conversation one day and hopefully make him see that he should not judge what he does not understand and maybe even change the way he perceives “these parents” (myself included)…… ……….