I see you sitting on the bench in front of my car. Just because you are wearing sunglasses does not mean I can't see the judgment that lies beneath them. You look at us as though you assume I don't hear the nonsensical screams of gibberish--the kicking of the seat of my car--or see the snot streaming across my son's cheek. You assume that because I am not responding to this outburst that I must be 'one of those parents.' Because my child doesn't necessarily look different, you make assumptions about he and I. In a matter of seconds you think you've got us pegged. I do not like to use the A word as an excuse, but in situations like these, it's the only one I've got in my arsenal.
I dare you with my eyes to say something to me. Though I know it isn't right, I already have prepared statements in my head; ready to fire back at you should you challenge me. I've met people like you before, and strangely enough, they all seem to fit a similar profile: Anglo woman, 50s to 70s, likely a Mother yourself, though time has clearly fogged your memory of what this feels like. Were your children really always angels out in public? Did you have friends with children whose needs were 'different' from your own? Perhaps if you had, then we wouldn't be here now together. Or was it that because your generation shut away kids like mine that you really just don't know? I want to scream at you that I continue to try to go out in public because I am a social creature. I like to shop. I have to sometimes take my children to the grocery store, or to try on a new pair of shoes. And by God, don't I deserve to be able to do those things, too, just like you?
I think if I asked you those things your response might be something like this: 'Children that misbehave like that in public need to be put in time out and spanked!'
I think this way because one of you said that to me once. You said it in a noisy, family-filled restaurant where my hungry, tired child was most certainly not the only one pitching a fit. You said it with venom in your voice, and though your husband apologized when we explained the situation, you did not. I wonder if you still think of us. How I cried and got my food to go. How we walked across the street from that restaurant and ate peacefully at a picnic table instead. How every time I thought about it on the drive home, I got a pit in my stomach and tears in my eyes. You were my first, and I knew that you would not be my last.
And so here we are today. And I promise if you say anything more than what you are saying with your eyes, I will show you just how prepared I am for you.