I'd like to think that I have come to terms with the fact that Mason has autism, but the truth is, I have not. I guess. I think.
Sometimes I really do think I have accepted it, but then something happens and I realize that I am actually not okay about it. Or I don't handle it well...actually I am not sure what I feel. I wish there were support groups for family members of special needs children. I am not Mason's mom, but I am a person who struggles and worries maybe not as much, but very often.
I was up all night last night thinking about an interaction that happened down the shore this weekend. It wasn't a big deal, but my reaction to everything was internally painful and I had difficulty with controlling my feelings.
We went down the shore on Saturday. It was myself, Chris, Georgia, June, Jill, Mason and my mom. We decided to get some pizza before we hit the beach so we went into a little pizza place that Chris and I often go to when we are there.
It was quite, another family had just walked in. I was so happy to be down the shore, Mason and Georgia were really excited about the ocean, and I was also looking forward to our faaaaavorite pizza!
We are seated at a table. Kids sit down, everything is good. Georgia starts talking about princesses, and Mason starts saying hi to everyone at the table. At our table.
He goes down the line and in a funny little monotone says:
Hi Mommy. Hi TT ( that's me). Hi Uncle Chris. Hi Georgia. Hi Jojo (my mom). Hi Baby June.
Hi Mommy. Hi TT. Hi Uncle Chris. Hi Georgia. Hi Jojo.. Hi Baby June.
Hi Mommy. Hi TT. Hi Uncle Chris. Hi Georgia. Hi Jojo.. Hi Baby June."
We are all so used to at that we just carry on, each acknowledging Mason as he says hi to us. I know he does this because he wants to talk, but he never knows what to say, so he just repeats phrases he is comfortable with.
His voice is really loud, and I'm not going to lie, it sound strange. Not his voice, but the repetitive nature of what he is saying is...weird. But, he is autistic. Autistic people are described as "quirky" which is a nice fancy,word for weird.
Jill says something like, "Mason, use inside voice" or something and then leaves to use the loo.
I see a waitress out of the corner of my eye STARING at him. Like she dropped everything she was doing to stare at Mason. She walks over and says, "Well! SOMEONE is all hopped up on sugar! NATHAN ( she thought his name was Nathan) does your mommy give you sugar?"
Mason did not want to talk to her, so he started doing something that I guess the other waitress thought was weird, because all of a sudden she runs over with a big tub of crackers and puts them in front of Mason. "This should keep him busy!" she says. I think she's trying to help, because I know when I was a server and i saw a kid about to lose it I would run over with crackers and crayons. But like, there was nothing wrong. Mason was being good. Exceptional. I can feel my blood pressure rising.
He takes out his few toys and starts lining them up on the table, minding his own business,and this fucking stupid bitch walks over again and picks up one of his toys.
"NATHAN, do you like to share?" This is not going to end well.
"No share please! NO SHARE PLEASE!" Mason says to her and I can tell he is getting upset.
"NATHAN you are NOT a good sharer, Does your MOMMY not teach you how to share?"
OMG WHAT THE FUCK. I am like in disbelief over this stupid cunt, I start shaking, I can see my mom getting upset. Luckily, the other table called her over so she leaves for a minute.
I'm like gathering my bearings, or I really don't know what I am doing. I'm ready to start kicking ass and taking names and she fucking walks over AGAIN.
"Sooo....HOW old is he?"
My mom has had it.
"MASON is 4. He is autistic. He goes to a special school and he has 20 hours of intensive therapy a week." I can see she is choking back tears, and the whole thing is too painful for me.
I wait for it. The typical reaction from people who can't mind their own fucking business about him, or use their brains and see that he is a special needs child, ask rude questions that are not coming from a good place in their hearts, and then stammer like dingbats when they find out what is going on.
"OHHHH. OH, well NO!! I wasn't saying ANYTHING LIKE THAT. of course not.. It's just well...I really like kids... and I...I was wondering about him.
First of all. If she really liked kids she would have noticed my adorable baby sitting in the stroller eating her feet. She would have asked about Georgia too. That wasn't what she was doing. She was trying to find out if we knew there was something "wrong" with Mason. It happens ALL. THE. TIME.
Like, people see him and stare at Jill to see if she knows whats up and then they always, always say "SOOO...HOW old is he?" It's the same every time. And then when we say he has autism they get all flustered and pretend they were not being judgmental dickheads.
And that is the thing. I am 100% sure that when these people read stories about atrocities committed against people with special needs, or hear about something being rude or mean to an autistic child, they clutch their pearls, think it is horrible, and say to themselves they would never act like that.
But people do. And I'm sure many of them are kind and nice. Not this lady, she was a stupid, simple asshole who probably had not left Atlantic City for 50 years but anyway...
Then she starts talking, well not even talking. She was stuttering about how smart 'artistic" (yes, she said artistic) people are, and by the time Jill got back from the bathroom she was yapping about a movie where Ben Affleck was "artistic' and saved the whole planet from destruction or something. I have no idea what move she means, but someone told me whatever movie it was his character was dyslexic.
So Jill comes back from the bathroom and hears the end of this stupid lady flapping her face, and is like "Uhhh..what did I miss?"
I'm having such a reaction to this woman I couldn't even tell her what happened, and then like all of a sudden the waitresses are coming over and being so nice, and asking about the baby. Sweet Mason had no idea about any of it. Neither did Georgia really, they are so innocent.
When you see Mason, you can tell something is off. Most of the time. My sister will not mind me saying it, because it is true. When he is in a setting where he needs to "not act like a child" (like a restaurant) it is apparent that he is not where is peers are socially.
Outside is different. We had Mason and Georgia in the ocean and they were both screaming and running and yelling and being children. There was no difference at all in what they were doing. It made me cry right there. No one was looking at him, judging him. No one was staring at Jill to see if she knew something was up.
I was also crying because sometimes I judge my sister, or get annoyed when she talks about autism, or get annoyed when Mason comes over and dumps out all the toy bins. But here in big huge ocean, Mason and Georgia were just two children having a blast in the water. No one was looking and I just felt that Mason was allowed to be Mason. And it made me sad because everyday we are bombarded with images and sayings that tell us to just be ourselves, or that it is okay to be the person on the outside, the non mainstream...but...it isn't a lot of times actually.
.Much of my pain is for Mason. I'm scared he will have a difficult life. But a lot of my pain is also for my sister. Just because she is my sister. She works so hard with him. It is hard. It is scary. It is painful to be the mother of a special needs child. I don't want her to have a difficult life.
I know I don't want a difficult life. I Do not want to sit awake every night and wonder if my child is going to be able to function. Sometimes I worry about Georgia getting in a car crash when she is a teenager...how will I save her?
Mason and Jill were in the car crash and she's been trying to keep him from flying out of the car for 4 years.
Jill does not think her life is hard. She just thinks she is being a good mother to her child. Which she is. But she does not have a normal motherhood experience and I guess I still grieve a little bit about that.
I wish we could stay in the ocean forever.