I Caught You Looking: The joys of public scrutiny.

J can be loud in public. Any child can. I suppose a loud scream is expected more from a small child than an 8-year-old boy. But J has autism. That’s his (and my family’s) reality. He’s going to make noise at any moment and it can be piercing to the ear.

Today, as my wife took the boys out to the car while I paid for our items at Costco, J did his thing as he passed by the woman in front of me. She glanced at me and then I caught her full-on-turn-the-head-look at him as he walked out. I wanted to say, “He spared you his best effort.” But I moved on with my life.

This happens frequently. I don’t know what people think when they look. I don’t care.

I’ve never been bothered by children in public, save the rare climber behind me in a restaurant booth. And I have always tried to curb my judgment about their parents.

One of the young parents I follow on Facebook, a woman who used to be in a church youth group I served years ago, recently told a story about the sharp judgment she received from an onlooker when her child was in full on tantrum mode in public. This mom was simply trying to get her child to the car for safety and a place to calm down. To the onlooker, I say, your insertion into this mom’s life is unwarranted and unwanted. Thanks for being unhelpful. Move along.

Our society is plagued with people who seem to know what’s better for other people’s children, even if they themselves have children. But such arrogant superiority doesn’t stop at judging how others parent. Folks will look and judge and shake their heads over many other things: the fashion a woman chooses, watching two men walk down the street holding hands, loud children, the eye roll when a single mother takes out her WIC card to buy groceries, children in public, and so on. Oh, did I mention children in public?

I would think people have enough on their plate than to cast stones at those around them. Parents will do what they feel works best (an I’m not speaking of abuse- that’s a different conversation) for their children or what they simply know how to do. People will live their lives in the way suits them: sometimes it’s the only option they have at the moment.

So, if you must look, offer a smile or an expression of understanding. Otherwise, look away and go about your business.

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