Intolerance is Everywhere and Will Be Hard to Eradicate. Are You With Me?
Are you f-ing kidding me?!? Seriously, nothing pisses me off more.
So the other day I was on the bus home. A parent was having a really challenging time with her kid. He was having a 5-alarm meltdown.
This kid was screaming as loud as he could, his face was red and his pitch was shrill. It was physically painful to hear. The mom was trying, frantically, to soothe her child. She had that deer-in-headlights look, and the glares and mutterings were darting at her from all around the bus.
I had a flashback…
Over a decade ago on that same bus, coming home from the food co-op, I was humming "Twinkle Twinkle" softly, under my breath.
I continued to hum the same tune the entire bus ride. I was hoping my “high strung” toddler would stay relatively soothed in his carrier as I navigated groceries and the unsettling gaze of our fellow riders. The humming was monotonous, but it kept us both calm. For everyone on that bus, I hummed under my breath again and again, all the way home.
I knew from experience that it sounded better than the alternative — his screams. It wasn’t so much the incoming meltdown I feared, and tried to postpone. I knew we would recover.
It was the judgmental scowls, “advice,” and crooked eyebrows as a result of the meltdown that I dreaded. They all came anyway, but that day on the bus, I got lucky. It was one of the few times he didn’t lose it until we got home.
I still remember being more concerned about what strangers would think of us than I was about his happiness.
This was before his diagnosis, but I already knew Ocean was more intense than other kids. If you’ve never had a child with sensory processing issues or developmental delays, you might not understand why that parent you see in public, the one with the deer-in-the-headlights expression, can’t “control” their kid. We really are all doing our best. Our internalized shame is enough to grapple with, we won't benefit in any way from your disapproval. Judgment can feel like it is crushing us from all sides, even from inside.
Dealing with intolerance and ableism, on top of loud noises and flickering lights, can wipe out my own nervous system. I can’t imagine what it does to the nervous system of a neurodivergent child. It’s no wonder my son feels relieved when he comes home to our quiet little sanctuary.
I do too.
Over this past decade, I’ve grown a thicker skin and a sharper tongue. I’m pissed off by public displays of ableism, which are exhausting because they are happening everywhere, all the time.
The other day was no different.
I heard the mutterings from around the bus, and saw the young parent cower under the impossible demands coming from both her child and the other riders. My heart melted for her. I felt compassion, but didn’t know what to do with it.
It’s a pressure cooker situation, trying to deal with a public meltdown in a confined space. Then add the onlookers who think they know how to do it better — because it’s easy to point fingers — it's too much to bear.
An irritable elder suggested to the struggling mom that she leave the bus with her child, before her stop!!!
Before I could stop my mouth, I heard it snap:
“Why don’t YOU GET OFF instead?!?”
No one ended up getting off, except for me, at my own stop.
I was shaking.
I know there is a better way to change opinions than to shout at strangers. Still, I hope that mom felt a little less isolated and a little more protected. I hope her kid ended up being okay.
In a functioning society, the welfare of children is a top priority. All children.
Our culture ruthlessly excludes people with disabilities. Ableism won’t be undone easily. I don’t feel I have a choice but to work towards creating a more inclusive, equitable, and empathetic world for our kids to grow up into.
I’m sure there’s a better way to do that than snapping at ignorant strangers. 😉
Ableism is everywhere and will be hard to eradicate. My kid needs to grow up in a more inclusive world. How about yours?
If you’re with me, tell me in the comments!