Dear Struggling Mom,
I heard your child all over the store. As I visited different areas of the store in search for the things on my list, I could hear him stimming. Loudly. I recognized it immediately. My heart immediately went out to you even though I hadn’t seen you yet. I knew that grocery shopping was probably not on your list of fun things to do today, let alone with your child in tow.
As I approached the checkout lanes, I saw you. You weren’t hard to find. He was about 5 years old, sitting in the front seat of the buggy as your daughter (6 or 7?) stood next to it. I wondered how many people were judging you thinking that your child was misbehaving as he squirmed, kicked, and yelled from his place in the buggy. I know I once would have. Before I was a parent. Before I was a parent of a special needs child. I wondered how many people avoided getting in that lane behind you, but I just felt like I needed to choose that lane. I ended up behind you with one person in between us. My heart broke as I saw the tired, worn out look on your face. You had a buggy full of groceries, which meant you had been there a while. I have no doubt you were ready to get out of the store and on your way home.
I looked down and saw a small tennis shoe under the buggy of the lady in front of me. She had no kids. I looked forward at your son’s feet – yep! Missing a shoe. I picked it up and handed it to you, and you just smiled and said thanks.
I watched as you tenderly put the shoe back on his foot. Then, as you turned your back and he continued to kick, off it came again. Not wanting to interfere too much, I waited to see if you caught it. You did. Once again, you tenderly put it back on his feet.
As you were waiting to pay, he suddenly went into an outburst getting much louder, and hitting himself in the head with his fists. You so gently reached over and stroked his arms and spoke calmly to him. I had tears in my eyes as I watched how you cared for him with love. You didn’t grab him or yell at him or try to “make him behave”. You just comforted him and tried to make him feel safe.
I saw you paying with a WIC card, and your behavior it impressed me even more. I don’t know if you are married or a single mom, but obviously money is tight. Money issues, and dealing with a child with special needs can take a lot out of you. I don’t know how you felt on the inside, but on the outside, you were not taking it out on your kids.
I wanted to help. So badly, I wanted to help. I didn’t know what to do. You don’t know me, so it’s not like I could offer to take your kids for the afternoon. I couldn’t afford to buy that buggy full of groceries for you.
So, I used all I had. My words.
I didn’t know what to say. Everything I said in my head sounded silly.
I hoped you didn’t think I was interfering, but I had to say something, so I walked up and touched you on the shoulder and prayed for God to give me the words to speak as I said,
“Can I just tell you that you are doing an awesome job with your kids? I know it’s not the same, but I have a daughter with Asperger’s and I know it can be stressful. The way you speak to your children and the way you have been handling him shows how much you love him.”
With tears in your eyes, you replied with “Thank you, that means so much!”. We gave each other a knowing glance, and parted ways.
I wish I could have done more. But the tears in your eyes told me that I had done something.
I learned from you too. You reminded me how important it is to put our children’s needs first. Not to worry about what the other people in the store think. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that our kids know we love them unconditionally just as they are.
I pray that you and your family will be blessed this year!