What’s your excuse?

We have all done it, we see a child behaving badly and we judge quietly to ourselves or speculate as to what the issue is. But how many of you have dared to get physical with another parent or their child over behaviour you feel is undesirable?

It happens and more frequently than you think. In my three years, since our ASD son’s diagnosis, of dealing with his variable behaviour we have had a few such instances.

On an aeroplane trip to Mauritius, 1,5 hours into the 3.5 hour flight, my son starts kicking the chair in front of him. I first say no but that does not work. Then I explain how it is not nice for the man in front to be kicked liked that which also does not work. I turn my son to face me so he can kick me, but he likes the feel of the compression on his joints as it helps to calm him. We quickly realise this is a problem so my husband takes him off for a walk. All this time my other 2 children are sitting like angels playing quietly.

The man in front turns around; “do you want me to help you discipline your child? Cause I am happy to. A good smack may be in order” My shocked response; “ I am really sorry he is making your trip so unpleasant, he has special needs and is battling a bit on the flight”. The man in front of me got the final word; “I do not care what your problems are, I paid as much as you did to be on this flight now control your child”.

I want to kick him in the back of the head let alone the back of the chair. It did all go downhill from here – no not because I kicked anyone. The flight ends with my son screaming get me off the plane and kicking the chair repeatedly, bringing him and myself to tears of desperation.

I vowed once we landed we would either emigrate or catch a ship back. Miraculously on the flight home, which was delayed and ended up being 5 hours, he managed perfectly. You just never know what you are going to get.

I am never sure how to handle these types of people and these situations. But being the matriarch of the family, instinct cuts in and when someone is threatening my children I protect ferociously and defend the brood. I, in this instance too have a quick tongue and battle to back down.

On another holiday excursion going to watch a cheetah run, we file into a packed grandstand (mistake number 1) as it sends my sons senses overboard. My husband very quickly moves off with him (mistake number 2), as he wants mom. Mom is however sitting with the other two children.

Whilst waiting for the festivities to begin “I want mommy, I want mommy” becomes my son’s loud mantra for about two minutes whilst I am trying to figure out how to get to him, between the people and with the other two children in tow.

A woman proceeds to get up and starts shouting in my husbands face how my son is bothering her and he best shut him up now. My ferocious instincts kick in. I bound down the stairs leaving the other two crying as I desert them. I address her sternly “ Hey back off he has some problems and is battling, what is wrong with you?” Her husband also has some instincts, violent ones “Shut your son up now or I will hit you.” One minute later my husband and I have calmed the kids down. Everyone enjoys the race, except for my husband and myself as we are both seething. Many people after the cheetah race come up to us and apologise on behalf the couple’s behaviour that they find so appalling.

My son has an excuse for when he behaves badly or inappropriately. I in no way use his condition as an excuse for his behaviour. I am hard on him and expect him to behave well. I understand it can be difficult for him especially when he is sensory overloaded. We try our hardest to not expose him to situations that could lead to compromised behaviour, but it is my no means always possible and is very variable.

Before having had children I would judge quietly to myself (key being quietly to myself) when I saw badly behaved kids. Now I have so much empathy into another parents plight and rather think of constructive ways I would handle the same situation or simply laugh at the situation. I think having a special needs child, I have become rather discerning at pin pointing bad behaviour due to lack of discipline or age appropriate tantrums or special needs or manipulation or tiredness. But I am in a unique situation and do not expect this understanding from all adults. However I do expect adults to behave appropriately in the face of another parent’s adversity and keep their opinions and advise to themselves (unless they know me and can help or have empathy into the situation).

I know because my son looks normal and is sociable and for all purposes appears to not have problems. I can only assume people think we are lying about his problems. I try hard to ignore people like this, and it really is a weakness I am trying to work on. All I do know for certain is that my son has many years to improve his behaviour and to be taught how to behave appropriately. Yes it needs to be taught through repetition and repetition and age and maturity. It is reminiscent of the Churchill quote “I may be drunk miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly.”

We both have a growth path ahead of us. I also have a plea for others out there; think before you judge, speak or over-react – he is a child, he has needs beyond your level of understanding. Even for children without special needs, a child who perhaps simply lacks discipline – they are just children, they are not bad. Where is your common sense, it is not your place to threaten anyone is such a situation. What is wrong with you? What is your excuse!

By Amber Tucker

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