When I see another family with a special needs child, I ALWAYS try to smile, at the child, or the parent, hopefully both, and even though I don't have a badge, a stamp on my forehead or my son with me to prove to her that I understand a little bit about her life, I always hope that a friendly smile will make her feel there is more good than ill-will in this world. I know there are days when I just hope that we can get through one single transaction without a struggle, and knowing that there are compassionate strangers nearby can make all the difference for me. But she wouldn't make eye contact with me, or anyone else for that matter, except her son.
And while I thought it was precious that she spoke to him so clearly, looking directly into his face, in an undistracted and meaningful way, I also found it a little distressing to think that perhaps she has had to block the rest of us out. I felt compelled to go over to her, and make some benign comment about her shoes to initiate a conversation, just to make sure she knew that there are those of us out here, who would help if we could, and know a lot of resources, and could take the cart if things got a little hairy in the parking lot (even though her son was doing an awesome job), and ugh, I just wanted to take care of her...jeesh. Which then made me feel like a creepy stalker, because maybe she just isn't that social to begin with, but I think what I really wanted to know is this: will I become like her? and will Jake be like her son?
Will I be so over other people staring at us by then that I will stop bothering to make eye contact? Will I look a little more resigned, but braver just the same. Will I look that tired, which is even more tired that I look now? Will my shoulders be that hunched? Will I look like I *really* need a break?
and will my son be pushing the cart? Helping a bit, pausing for a little stim, then back to the cart, not running anyone over, not escaping? Will Jake still be with me, daily, when he's 20? 30? (and will he be that handsome?)
Jake wears a size 6 shoe already (that's an 8 woman's shoe in case you need a little frame of reference.) He is taller and stronger and more like a young man every day. It's getting harder to pretend that he is going to stay a little boy forever when you're shopping for shoes that big. And like so many parents, the future seems so far away right now.
Of course I went to the grocery store without a shopping list and came home with 8 bags of groceries, and no plan for dinner, so perhaps I'll start with feeding my family before I move on to the rest of my life.