It happened on the playground nearby yesterday evening. Gabriel wanted to go; Nic did not. It's a nice afternoon, so we went.
Nic was sulking on some equipment while I pushed G on a swing. Two girls about Nic's age came over and sat on the next swings, and I clearly heard my son's last name.
There is no 'sounds like' for the name my kids have. You know it when you hear it. And these girls were talking about my boy like he was a freak.
I glared at them, and the girl who initiated pulled the other girl off the swing and they continued to whisper about him behind their hands. They came back. And kept on whispering about him.
My increasingly hostile presence made the girl who started ask 'what?'
"What are you saying about my son?" I tried not to snarl. Really.
The expression on her face changed immediately. Defiant gave way to scared. "I'm sorry."
"You SHOULD be sorry. He has autism. Do you have any idea how hard it is for him to try to be normal? Do you have any idea that his brain does not work the way yours does?" I pushed Gabriel on the swing as I spoke, not really caring how eloquent I was or wasn't. I was more than angry--I was seeing red.
"I'm sorry..." Clearly, she had no idea what she was dealing with--or who.
"Do you REALIZE how HARD people like YOU make life for people like HIM?" I spat the last words out, excused myself to G to go rescue Nic. When I came back to the swings, they had gone, retreated to play basketball at the courts. Still whispering.
We left a few minutes later. They slowly moved back to the playground, looking my way. And I stared them down.
And ended up sobbing all the way back to the car, Nic trying to make me feel better, Gabriel clutching my hand.
Sometimes, I just have hate in my heart for people like this. They should know better, yet they don't. There's no excuse for it. It just is what it is.
At Bingo later, R's mom told me I did the wrong thing. "I would have talked to their parents," she said.
"Where do you think they GET these ideas?" I snapped.
Back when I was helping Nic's class with a writing project in the first grade, a little girl pulled me aside and asked "Nic's special ed, isn't he?"
I was floored. There is no way a first grader would get there without parental input.
"Just worry about your writing," I told her.
Attitudes like this start at home. And as Nic gets older, it's really clear to what degree his presence is unwelcome in our district. Home school? Not so much--give them their props, by and large they have worked well with me.
These girls were from another elementary school. But they knew him.