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April 26, 2008

Making a Spectacle of Myself...Again

It started out looking promising. When I walked into karate class this afternoon for my oldest son's graduation to gold belt, my two-year-old was sleeping on my shoulder and my four-year-old had promised to be good. Plus I had a bag full of books and toys to keep them busy.

I should have known it was too good to be true.

Almost immediately after I found a good seat in the front row, a fast-moving fan woke the toddler up, my four-year-old completely forgot about my bribe of pizza for dinner if he was good, and no one wanted to read quietly. It went downhill from there.

It would have been hard for any parent to keep two kids contained in a a 4'x4' space for 45 minutes, but I felt a little like the deck was stacked against me. First of all, my two-year-old is...well, he's two. And Jack, my four-year-old, is autistic.

I don't consider Jack's autism to be an excuse for bad behavior

any more than I consider being two to be an excuse. It sheds some light on why he is acting the way he is, but he still has to follow the rules. Unfortunately, whereas being two is an obvious thing, Jack's autism is largely an invisible disability.

I don't think I have it much harder than anyone else. Every child has their issues and every parent faces unique challenges when trying to keep them occupied in public. I don't think I deserve any extra sympathy for having an autistic child.

It's just that sometimes I get tired of being a spectacle when I'm out with my kids. I often feel like I'm the only mom acting like she's herding cats. It seems that I am constantly barking orders. I don't think I've had the three of them out with me together recently that I haven't broken a sweat trying to keep them contained.

I'm tired of having to thank the people sitting to my left and my right for their tolerance and having to apologize to the people behind me for my children's squirminess, rocking, stimming, and random shouts of, "Shake it up!"

I tend to not mention Jack's autism in situations like the one at karate. It would be all too easy to say, "I'm sorry, he's autistic," and have that explain the situation. But I don't want Jack to hear me apologizing for his autism, nor do I feel like I should. I'm proud of who he is, autism and all.

I adore Jack's quirkiness. He's fun and he makes me laugh and he gives the best "squeeze hugs" known to humankind.

But sometimes I just wish that my kids and I could sit quietly and let another family take over the role of "spectacle."

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post.

Jean also blogs at Stimeyland.


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