I have such a vivid memory of Bean in grade 1 standing in the hall of her school throwing a toy into the air and catching it. Giggling like anything at how it flew up all lop-sided, and the ultimate joy of having it land back down in her arms.
I wish I could tell you that is a good memory, but what stings me every time I think back to it is the look on one adult’s face as she watched Bean. A look of disgust and embarrassment for Bean because Bean was acting the way a much younger child might. Bean couldn’t see or feel the criticizing glares of that woman – or maybe she just didn’t care. The child who was with the woman noticed the look though and (in explanation of Bean) with a sweet smile that implied he thought she was awesome, said “that’s Bean, she’s crazy like that”.
The look remained, like a deer in the head lights she couldn’t look away.
So I, angry and now also embarrassed, turned to the woman and said “hey, she’s a kid, she’s being a kid, that’s all” – insert whatever tone you assume I might have used in that circumstance. >It should be a good memory. A memory filled with wonder and excitement, joy and love. The pure innocence Bean had from that moment, the capability of losing herself in that moment and not wondering what others thought of her. It should be a memory filled with admiration of Bean instead of embarrassment.
It was in moments like those, standing there with that woman, that I didn’t know who was judging Bean more, me or her. That woman, who I would very likely not even like even if I got to know her, made me feel an insatiable urge to explain our life to her – our “situation” if you will. The life we live behind closed doors.
But of course I didn’t. That judgemental woman, staring Bean down as Bean enjoyed a moment in play, would likely hear everything but the parts that matter most. How Bean can tell you so many intricate details about Hedgehogs and Moshi Monsters. How vehemently she reads, filling her mind with stories and knowledge. How she questions everything – having a real curiosity for the wonders of the World and of human interaction. How she sees things differently than the rest of us, and how refreshing that is. But I didn’t say anything to that woman but that small sentence with a dripping undertone of anger. I shouldn’t have said anything at all. I should have just enjoyed seeing my kid laugh.
If only I had known better.
I realize, of course, that the
problem point is that I can’t go back in time and therefore regret and “what if’s” are a moot point here. But if only I had known better, then I could have done better. A poor excuse to be sure. I should have done better anyway. I should have been more patient anyway, more gentle and understanding, more kind and calm…anyway. Yes, I would have been so much better, seen so much more, if only I hadn’t been so blinded by pride and embarrassment.
A moot point.
…and still I will look back and cringe at everything I never even tried to understand. At all the things that seem so obvious now that I should have seen then! I could have prevented her GI issues if I would have taken the time to notice that she only really started to have stomach upsets after she ate gluten. I would have noticed that she had trouble with eye contact (instead of deciding she was just being rude) when she was always being told by adults to look at them when she was speaking to them. I would have wondered why she always noticed every single smell and sound, and I would have noticed that she always placed her toys in rows.
AND I wouldn’t have explained the word “obnoxious” to her so that she could understand what I was saying when I was telling her she was acting that way.
I mean really.
I wouldn’t have been so rough. Yelling at her whenever she became out of hand. I would have hugged her more, I should have hugged her more, I could have hugged her more. She was right there after all, just being. Not trying to frustrate me, not trying to embarrass me.
God I miss the mom I should have been.
Moot point, (again) I know.
I’m never going to be able to erase that woman from that memory of Bean tossing her toy in the air. I won’t forget that I was embarrassed for Bean and for myself in that moment, and I’ll never stop regretting that. But what I will do is switch my attention from remembering that woman and my feelings of embarrassment to the contagious giggles and ear to ear smile on Bean’s face while she played, by herself, without a care in the World, certainly not for what other’s thought of her.
Things are not as simple as they say – one can’t just move forward, forgetting the past. I can regret, I must regret, but in that regret I must learn from that memory that it doesn’t matter what that woman thought, or even what I thought, all that mattered was that Bean was happy.
I can feel sorrow and anger, I need to feel sorrow and anger at the errors I made along the way, but in that sorrow and anger I must learn from my mistakes.
Bean is more then just what others see or don’t see, and I know that. I’ve always known that. I’ll work my hardest to always remember that.