Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Letter to the Woman who Grabbed my Child

We were there, in the thrift store, wandering the aisles and looking for treasures.  My four children had already picked out their free books--a service that makes this chain a favorite, and we had moved on the looking for other "treasures."  My 18 month old who is presumed to have cerebral palsy, has FPIES (food protein induced enterocolitis syndrome), and is feeding tube dependent was happily perched in the cart, and the other kids were walking with me.

My 3 year old, who is on the autism spectrum, was touching.  Everything.  I kept reminding him not to touch.  However, he wasn't being wild or out of control, and the thrift store has always felt like a safe place to learn.  If something does break, we can buy it without experiencing financial distress.

Abel on a fun outing.

We had just moved past a display that had a tea set in it, when I heard a harsh, whispered "no touch."  I turned around, and you were reprimanding him.  He'd apparently hung back and tried to touch it.  I took him by the hand, and we moved on.  Then, another aisle over, you were there, and you came down fast.  Once again, he was compulsively feeling things, but doing so gently.  You swooped down behind him while I, his mother, was right there.  You grabbed him by the wrists, and said sharply, "look with your eyes, not your hands!"

He looked stunned.  I was stunned.  I'm ashamed that I was in too much disbelief to say anything.  I simply told my children that we needed to go now, and we left.

Abel obsesses over anything with buttons, switches, or levers and is constantly building "machines."

Later came the rage and the feelings of utter failure as a mother.  You had no way of knowing that we'd already had two doctor's appointments that day, and were doing something fun to fill the gap before therapy.  The therapy that teaches my autistic child how to handle stimuli more effectively and that helps my 18 month old who can't yet walk (in fact, crawling is a recent skill) how to move.

But that's the point.  You didn't know.  I'm so acutely aware of my shortcomings as a mother.  That this journey looks nothing like I thought it would.  I cry almost daily over my inability to make things different.  To make them better for them.  

Pip feeding while swimming.  Having him home while dependent on a feeding tube would have been impossible in the not so distant past.

And, as thankful as I am for everything your generation has done, there is this one thing that I can't get over right now--two of my four children would have been institutionalized by your generation.  Maybe not by you, and maybe you aren't aware of that.  But it isn't that children like mine didn't exist then, that you didn't have problems like this.  It's that they were tucked neatly away, out of the eye of the public.  I'm sure families like ours are hard to comprehend and it seems like surely, surely we could have prevented this.

I cry about that, too.

Right now I'm trying hard to spin what you did in a positive light.  To think you were trying to help.  But it felt like an attack on me, not to mention my child.  I wish you knew how regularly I do that to myself. Attack myself.  In the past 24 hours I've been praying for you, and for myself.  That I would be able to love you with the love of Jesus, and that you might have your eyes opened to the real messiness of life.  Of children with disabilities.  I guarantee your life will be better for it.  Enriched.  It's not an easy reality--believe me, I know.  But I also know that these children, my children, are every bit as much an image of God as you or I.

Ready for a bike ride in our Madsen--an amazing bike that allows me to take all four out at once.
You have been my first introduction to the fact that many people don't have room in their hearts for those who are different, and that--that makes me incredibly sad.  For my children, and for those of you who are missing out on relationships with these precious little ones.  Because they are precious.  To me, and to Jesus. And I can only pray that someday they might be to you as well.


  1. First off, I want to assure you that I agree that that woman should not have laid a hand on your child. In this day and age she had no business doing that.
    So understand what I have to say next is not about adding any more guilt or hurt to what you are feeling. And if what I say comes off wrongly and adds any degree of hurt rather than alleviating it, please remove and disregard this comment. My feelings won't be hurt. I will simply understand that my words were not the right ones for your situation and what you are/were going through.
    Back in the day people use to help each other parent and it wasn't offensive. If another women saw a mother with several children that appeared to be overwhelmed then the woman would step up and help.
    It was not intended as an insult against the mother nor meant to say that the mother was deficient in her mothering. We were more community oriented back then than we are now.
    Women putting each other down as mothers is a more recent thing brought on by many factors I won't get into.
    Depending on the age of that women, she may have never meant to insult your child or your mothering, only to help you both.
    Again, not agreeing with what she did or her methods.
    Just not wanting you to feel guilt or condemnation where none may have been intended.
    And even if she did intend to guilt you, for heavens sake, don't receive it. You already have too much on your plate.

    1. Thank you. I actually would have appreciated help. However, her tone made it clear that she wasn't happy with him, or me. A glare was cast in my direction after she let go of him. I've had people help, and say things like "yes, those are beautiful, aren't they? But remember to be very careful not to touch." The approach and tone are entirely different.