There was so much ice cream on our cones, that one had to laugh at the pure excess of it. I have to admit to being that mother who scrapes off some of the ice cream when she feels there is just too much for one small person. Neither of my children protest this, and it makes the cone more manageable for them.
It made me smile to hear the laughter coming from the next table over. We are a zoo loving family too. However, once I looked in the direction of the laughing, I realized the source of their amusement was sitting next to me holding his ice cream cone.
Braden had made it through the hour and a half car ride, walked a good bit, and was getting tired. While most of the time we don’t feel you can see his differences, yesterday you could. He wasn’t able to sit fully upright, his entire body was unsteady, and he was having a bit of trouble controlling his movements. He looked like a child with special needs. It was clear that I was assisting him more than an average child of his age.
At first I thought that these adults were laughing in an “Oh, look at that poor little fella! The cone is nearly as big as he is!” kind of way. Not so much. It was more in a “Look at the retarded kid!” way. Oh yes, I did hear the word “retarded.” It stunned me silent. It was about that time that smoke started coming out of my ears. Justin and Genevieve strode over with their goodies at that moment. I looked at Justin and said, “Those people are making fun of our kid.” Fearing what he would do, I wished I hadn’t said anything.
My husband impressed me beyond words yesterday. He calmly walked over to the table and began to inform them, “Well, actually my son has a condition called Ataxia-Telangiectasia….” By the end of it, they looked pretty embarrassed, and were telling him how adorable he was. It didn’t excuse their behavior, but all I can sincerely hope is that they learned a lesson from their behavior. Although, I too learned a lesson yesterday. I learned that I can count on my husband to come through for our family when it matters. We are a team, and we’re going to stick together. He managed to turn a moment in which I truly wanted to throttle somebody into a lesson on compassion and empathy. Talk about a role reversal! That’s my job!
We let the incident slip away, and went about enjoying the beautiful weather and silly animals. The day ended with beautiful memories, and we didn’t allow the incident to taint them. Although, I pity the fool who uses the word “retarded” in my presence ever again. Just sayin’.