Out of the corner of my eye, as I was pushing my cart with my shrieking 3.5-year-old to our car in 86 degree heat, I saw you watching me. I promptly forgot, though, as I was hyper focused on getting my son safely in the car to calm down.
When you knocked on my window, as I was about to start driving, I hesitated because I had a feeling I knew why you were there. Still, I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt; maybe you needed some help. The pamphlet on “Discipline” that you tried to give me, and then–when I declined–placed on my windshield, made me laugh heartily. Especially because after you first tried to hand it to me, I simply said, “No thanks, my son has autism and is having a meltdown–not a tantrum.” Then you said, “It still applies.”
Frankly, that is wrong. Perhaps you didn’t notice me standing at the entrance letting my son watch the store’s automatic doors open and close exactly–our agreement–five times before we went in; then–exactly–five times before we began shopping. Perhaps–but doubtful–you didn’t notice him screaming when I pried him away from the doors because he wanted to watch them open and close some more. Perhaps you didn’t see or hear him repetitively shaking his head back and forth and repeating the same word over and over as I hurriedly got us through the store to get the few items I promised my 11 and 13-year-old girls I would get today. Perhaps you mistakenly thought that he is my first child and I am younger than I am (ha) since I did not have my three older girls with me, or perhaps because I was dressed down in glasses/no-makeup with a nasty cold.
Because it was just my son and me today, you couldn’t have known that I’ve been through toddlerhood three times, in all its glory, and that I am well aware of how to manage a toddler tantrum. My son has his share of tantrums, but this was not one of them.
That day at Target, he was having an autism meltdown: sensory overload, too hot, lack of routine (thanks to no school). He needed compassion, not discipline. He needed to be in a moving car as quickly as possible, so he could begin to calm down. That was my only thought at the time you approached me. The time I spent entertaining your “suggestion” that I ought to read up on discipline took away from my end-goal, and I regret that.
I don’t blame you for trying to pass along literature for your program, whatever it may be, but I do have one request. I hope that the next time you see a parent with a child who is obviously bothered by something–whatever it is–and trying to express it, perhaps you will give thought to whether it is a tantrum that needs “disciplining” or a(n autism) meltdown.
Because, contrary to your “it still applies” response to me, you are wrong.
A Mom Who Stands Up for Her Son