I wasn’t planning on writing about anything in particular- especially not this type of thing. I know quite a few of my posts are of the passive-aggressive sort. But there comes a point in my personal processing where that inkling- no nagging- doesn’t quite stop and here we end up.
I thought about a personal letter to those concerned and it may come but I’m not sure it’s what I’m after or the audience that I would like to reach. The audience, I think, is simply the community as a whole and that is whom this is addressed. So, community, here it goes.
A few days ago we were asked to leave an event because our toddlers were being disruptive. That is a fair request in many situations. This was a free event that we were invited to participate in because our son was one of the presenters. It was not the first time we’ve been asked to leave an event and it most likely won’t be the last.
I’ve missed concerts, talent shows, plays, and lessons that my kids are directly involved in. I’ve left “kid friendly” movie theatres, stores, museums, parks, farmers markets, baseball games, soccer games, dance recitals, nature preserves, church gatherings, and homes. I’m sure we would’ve been asked to leave the doctors office if that was an option.
The times that I’ve been asked directly to leave I’ve smiled politely, gathered my things, picked up my children, and left. I know we aren’t the only people in the world and I understand that you would really rather not be distracted/inconvenienced/miss something important because my children aren’t ready to listen.
This time when we were asked to leave we said, No. And we didn’t.
I still don’t know if it was the right call. It felt incredibly selfish. It was the first time we’ve EVER done it. Dug in our heels, said this event is for us actually and stayed.
Here’s the thing- they weren’t being that loud. They were paying attention. They were wiggly and wanting snacks. We were in the back by the door ready in the event someone really did need to go. It was a free event for kids and their families that lasted 30 minutes at a local community center a block from our house. So when we were asked to leave, I was surprised. When we didn’t leave, I was even more surprised.
It felt- well- It felt like they were saying: “We see you and we don’t want you here. You are ruining this event for us. You are the problem. You have no value here. We would rather you not be a part of this community. You are too messy. Too loud. Too much. Go away. ”
I know that’s not what they thought, well, I will give them that benefit. But it felt that way. And if we felt that way with our mostly neurotypical white kids from a nice house in a nice city than what the hell do the non-neurotypical kids from anywhere else feel, with any other skin color, from any other city, feel?
Here’s what I know they saw when they asked us to leave: They saw two young parents with kids wanting candy making too much noise ruining their event for their other guests.
Here’s what they didn’t know: That we willing welcomed two highly rambunctious boys because they didn’t have a home, from this actual, real-life community. Those trailer down the street? Yeah. That because we care so much about how you feel and not disrupting the “experience,” we live mostly in our four walls and backyard of 1/8 of an acre. That we order groceries online so as not to bother you in the store. That we don’t see movies so you can fully experience the story. That I pay babysitters for concerts so they don’t interrupt your kids’ performances. They don’t see that I worry and fret and panic everytime my kids have anything going on because I 1. can’t find a sitter or 2. can’t stand seeing them not see me in the audience one more time. They don’t see that I was desperate for a video to show my husband who is most likely getting in or off a plane at that very moment.
They don’t see how lonely it is to raise a family here, in nice white city, USA.
I am trying my best to let go of the illusion that it could have been any different. I want to be able to apologize for making a scene, for disrupting the event. I’m not there yet.
I could’ve used someone, anyone, to ask if maybe I would like them to play with my kids for a minute. I could’ve used someone to say congratulations to my son presenting. I could’ve used some heads up that this free, 30-minute event, was for kids 5 and up. And I could’ve used just a little bit of grace that we would’ve taken them out if they were disrupting the experience. I mean, we’re practically pros at that.
Here’s what I learned though, that this community is not a friendly place for kids. That a place that sees my kids as wholly human- not a hindrance or a distraction- is someplace uniquely special. I’m not saying in any way that the world should bend to the wishes of my children or the needs of my family but what I am saying is that we could do maybe a little bit better.
That being kind is always better than being right.
I am so very sorry for not showing more kindness, for wanting so desperately to be right. I wonder though, at what point do we say as a family, enough. We are also a part of this inclusive community you have. Let us be.
-The family down the street.
A few things happened this weekend. One was an email I received from an online coaching community, understanding my position but stated that maybe we need to think about the other people in the room as well. I don’t disagree but it’s also why I felt this was a post that was needed. The second thing that happened was I took some time to say thank you to a community that HAS seen my kids as wholly human. I wanted to let them know that their graciousness and commitment to us as a family and our role in the community was unique and valued and so very special and that we are honored to be a part of it. There are more, our current church community is striving for this. Our homeschool community was ready with torches and pitchforks. There are helpers all around if we look for them.
Another thing is this, prior to this weekend, I felt that I had understood at least a little bit about what it feels like to have a non-neurotypical kid and/or a kid with visible special needs. I am here to say that I truly don’t have any idea. If we felt like this just a handful of times but have been under the radar for most of the rest, I can’t imagine what it’s like when you can’t. I am incredibly sorry for how we’ve made this world an impossible place for your families. Keep shouting, friends. Keep showing us what we can do better. Keep coming out of the four walls of your house or through the computer screen, and we will be there. To sit next to your wiggly kids. To listen. To be willing to turn up the mic just enough so everyone can hear. To be willing to miss something important so someone else can experience it. Kindness over rightness. Both ways.