This was a hard weekend for me. Sometimes they are. It was one of those times when I noticed other people noticing my son. Noticing that he's different. Noticing that even though he looks very "normal" he doesn't quite act "normal". Most of the time I try not to let it bother me, don't notice the second glances or downright stares. But when I am feeling uptight and stressed myself, I tend to notice those little glances or laughs hidden behind a hand covering the lips, or someone shaking their head more. I tend to be ultra-aware of my surroundings and take evrything in, maybe to make up for what Kaeden is unable to take in. And it is very hard for me, as his mom, to recognize people seeing him as being different. It may be a good thing, for others to be faced with differences and come to recognize disabilities, but for me, it's sometimes humiliating. There, I said it. I don't like myself for feeling that way about my own son, but geez, sometimes I just want to fit in and not be the stand out in the crowd. This weekend, it was impossible.
We went to a big nature playground and we were having a lot of fun together as a family. Erwin and Kaeden even managed to play together, joke around, and laugh together without any problems. That alone had me feeling like I was on top of the world. I should know better than to get too enthusiastic, as when I do, my spirit always gets shattered. If I keep my hopes somewhat subdued, it never seems quite as damaging.
After playing in the playground we went to the mini golf and started our rounds. It was a really cool course with different paths than you see everywhere. We were having so much fun when suddenly we caught up to the masses. It was so busy we couldn't even golf, with groups of 7 or 10 or even more ahead of us. I think it stressed my husband out, all the crowds. I know it stressed me out, and I'm sure it was hard for Kaeden. Crowds always are harder for him. We decided to move forward to a path that wasn't taken by groups. Kaeden was worried about this, worried we wouldn't get back and get the correct score. Worried we wouldn't know which path we'd already completed, that the score wouldn't even out in the end. He was correct, because that little happening caused him too much stress and on the following course, he exploded. He laughed when Erwin missed a shot, Erwin got mad at his insincerity, and then it was boom!
Kaeden lost it, completely and wholly. He was cursing and screaming and spitting and pacing and throwing the ball and his club. And all those hordes of people? Yeah, they witnessed it all. The people climbing on the survival course in the trees above us? Yeah, they witnessed it too. People stopped playing as our family became a one act show for all to be entertained. And I stood on, trying to reach my son, reach through his anger, his fear, his disregard for people, and find a way to calm him. But at that moment it wasn't possible. And then, as I looked around me, I realized that Kaeden could seriously hurt one of these people. He was that out of it that he wasn't aware of his surroundings in the least. Eventually, I persuaded him to come with me as he continued to rant and swing the club around ferociously. As we made our way out of the mini golf park, leaving Erwin and Jari behind, he continued to spit, scream, curse and kick. And I was the center of attention, as was my son.
At that point, all I wanted was to get Kaeden to calm down. I needed him to come back to reality, to breathe. So I stopped, spoke calmly and let him rant until I finally saw his eyes begin to clear, his face lose some of the tension. And then, when he said he needed to go walk to calm down, I let him go. That is his best manner of gaining control, to just leave him alone. So I sat and watched people still pointing and makiing gestures my way. And silently cursed them, myself, my husband, my son. Tried to stay calm.
A little while later, Kaeden was by the outdoor swimming pool. Jari and Erwin came back after their golf rounds and Jari went in search of his brother while Erwin and I discussed what had happened. He came running back to inform me that Kaeden was swimming. Swimming? In 60 degree grey autumn weather? Swimming with no swimming trunks? Swimming?
I looked over the fence to see my 16 year old son jump in the outdoor swimming pool in his underwear, his clothes left in a pile by the side of the pool. And I had no clue what to do. I called his name, then demanded that Jari come back by us to get Kaeden's audience away. But he still had an audience. People sitting picknicking were laughing, pointing, shaking their heads, glancing back and forth between Kaeden and I. Tears pricked behind my eyes as I watched thescene before me unfold. I wached Kaeden go down the baby slide into the pool and stand there just grinning.
So what, I tried to tell myself. But it was not normal behavior. So what, I tried to believe. But it was not okay for someone his age to take part in such an activity. Eventually, Kaeden climbed out of the pool, gathered his clothes, stripped down to nakedness, and got dressed, carrying his wet underwear as he returned. I couldn't get away fast enough. I hoped the car would swallow me whole. I was utterly humiliated.
The thing that bothers me most is this humiliation. I should have been more worried about my son than what others were saying and thinking. I should have been so involved in him that I didn't notice the stares and pointing. But I wasn't. I was doing what I had to do to keep them and him safe, to help him find calm, and nobody has any idea. I am certain they know there was something not quite right, but I could have used it as a learning opportunity in place of wallowing in my own embarrassment. Maybe next time. Probably not.