The angry words were yelled so loudly that you could hear them across the soccer field.
They stopped me in my tracks as I was heading to the parking lot with my three boys after our third soccer game of the day.
The furious mom was yelling at the coaches of the team that we had just played.
In the last quarter of the game, I had seen that same mom storm around the field to get her daughter from the bench and bring her to the parent side of the field.
I couldn’t quite make out everything that she was saying, but I could hear her arguing with another parent, something about a boy who had kept touching her daughter while they were on the bench.
But then she started heading back over to the player side of the field, with the intent of speaking to the little boy who had been bothering her daughter, steam practically coming out of her ears.
Another of the parents jumped up and yelled after her, “Wait, wait! He has autism!”
And my attention shifted from my child playing on the field to the sidelines.
I still didn’t quite know what was going on, though I did know they were talking about children on the other team, not my son. So part of me breathed a sigh of relief while another part of me thought that it could so easily be mine on another day.
The game ended, the players lined up to run through the parent tunnel, they got their snacks and everyone headed toward their cars.
Or almost everyone.
The angry mom continued to talk to the coaches on the other team. You could tell from her body language that she was furious.
My three boys were anxious to get out of there, having already been there pretty much nonstop for the past 7 hours thanks to that day’s game schedule. But I walked slowly.
And that’s when I head it.
“I don’t care that he has autism!”
I froze in my tracks and debated.
A big part of me wanted to go join the conversation. Because I’ve so been there. Someone getting upset at behaviors that my son can’t help. Someone getting upset over something that in the grand scheme of all we have to deal with…
Autism is not an excuse for kids to be able to do whatever they want and everyone around them should forgive them because of their autism. Oh, hell no. But, sometimes, yes, they do need a little more slack cut for them than other kids. It doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to work on things and try for improvement and it doesn’t mean that their behaviors should all be blown off as if they are no big deal. But, sometimes, when you are fighting a long and difficult war, you can’t win every single small battle. Or you can try, but you know there are some you will lose: so you stay focused on the big picture of the war.
I wanted to tell the dad that I knew. I knew how hard it can be.
I wanted to tell that mom that saying that she doesn’t care that this child has autism… that she has no idea what she’s talking about. That even though she has every right to stand up for her daughter, she has no idea what that other family is facing.
But, since I didn’t really know the details, since I didn’t think me butting into their conversation would really be welcome, since as Hubs later told me- that mom probably would have punched me, I allowed my boys’ momentum to lead me to the parking lot and away from the argument. I stayed out of it.
My heart was heavy as we drove away. It’s stayed that way since, knowing how easily I could have been the parent getting yelled at by a mom who doesn’t understand. And knowing that it would have meant a lot if someone had come stuck up for me. Oh, God, I should have said something.
And even though I can’t turn back time and change the fact that I walked away, I can keep my eyes out for that coach. And let him know that I get it, that he’s not alone. Even if it’s not when I should have spoken up, it’s all I can come up with now.
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