Tuesday, August 11, 2009

part 1 and part 2

Part 1 - This is the funny part

Some of you who follow Facebook might know that Martin did something very odd on Saturday. While shopping at Lowes with his dad, he needed to go to the bathroom. My husband asked where the restroom was and told Martin to follow him in that direction. But Martin went a different way. My husband followed, which is typical for us. We follow Martin around a lot of places. Martin rounded a corner and my husband lost sight of him for a little bit. When he came around the corner, he saw Martin perched upon a display toilet, shorts around his ankles, taking a whiz. Yes, you can laugh. Laugh really hard. It's really funny.

Part 2 - This is the unfunny part

When Martin does something odd in a public place, our experience of that moment often depends on bystanders' reactions. In a perfect world, the red-vested Lowes employee would see Martin, register a little shock, get a wry smile on her face and say, "Well, THAT just happened." We would offer to help clean things up and all would be well in a few minutes. This is what happened when poop came flying out of Martin's diaper and onto the Macy's shoe department floor when he was a baby. Instead, a red-vested Lowes employee came up to my husband and shamed him. He insisted that the toilet would have to be "junked." He said this word, "junked," over and over. It seems that he just wanted my husband to feel bad. It's that classic internal litany reserved for parents of bad children in public places: "You need to get control of your kid. This is your responsibility. And since I won't charge you money, I will exact your dignity."

I struggle about revealing Martin's diagnosis to strangers. I don't want to explain away bad behavior. We're working on these behaviors every day. But sometimes we just want people to give us a break. To offer to carry our grocery bag instead of giving us condemning looks. In return for this sympathy, I have something I can offer. I can reveal Martin's status in ways to make other parents feel good. Sometimes, at the library, Martin's reading ability catches the attention of other parents. In this child-competitive culture, I get comments about how lucky I am to have a kid who reads so early. I usually say that he's autistic and his brain is specially wired for this sort of thing. It was no parental accomplishment.

Dear Lowes employees: I'm ready for some grace from the other direction.


  1. S. got yelled at this morning for going down the wrong side of the steps at the subway station. He wanted to hold on to the and my hand and of course that wrecked the flow. Moreover, every time we go on the streetcar into the financial district of Toronto--no one ever gives up their seats for the kids (this was true when they were infants.) I think that we live in a world that is particularly poisonous to kids. I realizes more and more how much I have been shaped by this world. I think about the generations of people that went before me...my parents friends, the people in my church growing up, the people in my small town.... I felt really loved by these people... And, now I find that (a) petty annoyance about kids (b) competitiveness amongst parents is really limiting the circle of love that kids feel. I am trying really, really, really hard to show love to the children of my friends and at church and to praise them even when their accomplishments makes me wonder if I might be a BAD parent. Anyhow, I am sorry that this is making things more difficult with Martin. Public shaming sucks! I realized just recently how much I have been shaped by my Father's ethics.... at its centre is that you never, ever, ever make anyone feel like you have more than them, embarrass them, or shame them in public. Unless, of course, someone is shaming someone else.... then you are free to publicly destroy them. If my dad, D., or I were at Lowe's he would have verbally thrashed the guy in the red jacket. I know. I know. Not exactly the Mennonite way..... But, it might be satisfying to imagine. My 84 year old Father would do the best, too.

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  3. A volcano erupted inside me when that little bearded gent grumped his little grump on me. Not because I was worried about Martin. Martin was completely oblivious. While the man started grumping at me, Martin was complaining to me because the display sink in which he was trying to wash his hands did not have any water in it.

    On the contrary, I was mostly upset because this dude was giving me a hard time for what I could only see as no good reason. 1. If, in fact, (for some bizarre reason) Lowe's has a policy that says all display toilets that get peed on have to be junked (as opposed to say, cleaned), that is on them for having an inane and wasteful policy. 2. Why does this dude have some sort of personal stake in Lowe's losing the $75 it has invested in a display toilet? He's probably a former smalltime hardware store owner put out of business by Lowes five years ago. 3. If I had bought that toilet, taken it home, taken a dump in it, decided I hated it and brought it back to Lowes, they would have instantly no-questions-asked given me a full refund for it.

    All of which I would have loved to spew at that little late-career-Richard-Dreyfus-playing-a-putz-looking-motherscratcher, but couldn't because Martin was racing down an aisle looking for the liquid soap.


  4. Well, seems like you would have done a pretty good job at thrashing the fellow if the situation would have allowed. (LOL) For the record, I know from a short stint at a department store that kids are always crapping in the corner of changing rooms. I imagine that was not the first time a display toilet got shat in!

  5. Ohhh... how angry I am for you. I always struggle with deciding if it is best to walk away, give a long tirade back or go for the one line zinger. (unfortunately the one line zingers usually come to me later)

    Thanks for relaying the story, what a good reminder to not judge situations that we really know nothing about.


  6. Would that Martin and S had received grace. It's in such short supply most of the time. I'm also thankful for the reminder to stop judging.

    I'm also guessing that far less logical things get 'disposed of' in those display toilets. I've seen soda cans, snack food wrappers, cigarette butts etc. around them. I'll bet those folks don't get caught and scolded because they aren't waiting to wash their hands. At least no one can fault Martin's hygiene. ;)

  7. What a great way to start the morning (definitely better than the current assault on my nostrils - skunked dog)! Beautiful, just beautiful. If I was ever to make a movie ... I'd have to find a way to fit a scene such as this in almost exact replica into it (the Lowe's guy would have to get his just due - at least in the form of having to be the one to clean it, which we can almost guarantee *didn't* happen).