When A Mama Bear Reacts

As a young child, I was always mothering my younger cousins.  I’m a nurturer and it seemed that I had an incredible amount of empathy even then.  I’ve been overweight since I was about 10 and one by-product of that has been my empathy for others.  Being judged by the amount of weight you carry is such an awful feeling, I went out of my way to not judge people based on what I saw.  Walking in someone elses shoes is an incredibly hard thing to do, and frankly, most of us don’t do it well at all.

This past weekend, while at the grocery store, Little TDJ and I encountered two very ignorant and vocal women.  We exchanged words and our interaction left me feeling hurt and angry.  I started writing this post on Sunday, but I was still too angry.  Realizing that my anger would do nothing to help the situation, I decided to try to use the moment to share a bit of insight.

There are many who fight about using the terms autism or autism spectrum disorder, they fight about calling it a disorder, disease or disability, they fight about “managing it” vs “curing it”, they fight about whether vaccines cause it or not, etc.  I simply fight for my sons right to live a full life.  I fight for him to be treated with the same kindness and respect that we are each entitled to.

The grocery store can be an overwhelming experience for many children with autism and Little TDJ is no exception.  Because of the bright lights, loud sounds, loads of people and his discomfort with knowing “what comes next”, a supermarket can be the setup for a perfect storm.  I try to shop without him, but that’s not always possible.  So to prepare, we look at picture of markets and watch a few minutes of a cartoon like Team UmiZoomi as they take an adventure to the supermarket.  In the car on the way there, I tell him calmly that we’re going to the market several times and encourage him to clap about our trip.

On Sunday, we set out on a quick trip to pick up a few items.  Our trip started off pretty well.  My son rode in the cart happily and had fun by announcing the number to each aisle that we passed by.  Little TDJ is in love with numbers and knowing their patterns is like a soothing balm for him.  He understands numbers and delights in predicting/remembering their patterns.  In his delight, Little TDJ shouted the numbers very loudly.  Yup, I’m all about full disclosure.  His voice is loud, and sometimes he even yells.  My son didn’t babble much as a baby until about 15 months and he uttered his first word just before his 2nd birthday.   He’s so excited to have found his voice and he wants to be heard.  Since he’s not crying and we’re not in a movie theatre, library or Catholic church, I let him enjoy himself I do encourage him to “talk softly” by placing one hand over each of my ears, a gesture that he understands from school.  Right now however he’s too excited and he can’t.  **shrugs**  We shop on.

Once done, we get into a short line and prepare to check out.  Little TDJ is now focused on reciting the numbers to the check out stations.  We are at line/stand 7.  Unfortunately for us, lanes # 6 and 8 are not open, therefore the numbers above the lanes were not lit.  As Little TDJ counted down from check stand 18, after speaking the number 9, he got to 8 and paused.  Since the 8 wasn’t lit, it flustered him.  It was an unexpected scenario and one that he was unprepared to handle.  He looked at me and I rubbed his back to soothe him, while nodding before speaking.  “It’s ok Little TDJ.  The light is off.  What number comes next?”  He turned away from me and started again at 18.  We  moved slowly in the line and I willed it to go more quickly because I knew my son was on the verge of a possible meltdown.  He paused again when he got to 8.  His eyes welled up with tears and he pointed at check stand 8 accusingly.  I tried to speak to him softly and distract him with counting the keys on my key ring, but he wanted none of that.  He began to shake, cry and he asked for his “Bink” aka pacifier.

So, mouthy ladies 1 and 2, decided to start a whispered dialogue about my son.  Y’all, I can ignore most things from the mouths of strangers and I normally do, however this little convo was intended for my ears.

Mouthy 1:  You could hear him screaming all through the store, I thought somebody was attacking him or something.

Mouthy 2:  And look at him now with a damn pacifier in his mouth.  Child that big has no reason for a damn pacifier.  If he can say his numbers, what he need a pacifier for?

Mouthy 1: ***laughs loudly***  You ain’t neva lied.  Must be retarded or something, and the mama too.  That’s what’s wrong with kids today, their mamas don’t know how to raise ’em right.

I swear it was the “r” word that got me.  I hate the word and find it highly offensive.  A few months back, there was a discussion over at Creole in DC’s blog but I didn’t chime in.  I don’t know about you guys, but sometimes I read interesting posts at other sites and can’t quite get my thoughts together at that moment to write the kind of response I’d like to write.  I didn’t even want to include the word in this post, but I wanted to convey things the way they happened.

A quick internal discussion ensued.  Did I need to say something or could I let it go?  I know that my son does not suffer from mental retardation, nor do it.  Was it important to let those women know?  Aside from the laughter and scorn, I heard judgment in their voices.  Did I care that they were judging me and making a snap determination of my parenting skills?  And if I did care, why?  The people who know and love Little TDJ and myself know what kind of child he is and what kind of mother I am.  We’ve discussed his usage of the pacifier thoroughly with his medical team and we’re all on the same page.  Why was I so upset with two strangers whom I would never see again?

I could come up with a really long explanation but here’s the quick and simple truth – their comments weren’t nice and they hurt my feelings.  My son isn’t yet able to understand those kinds of conversations, but when he is, I’m sure those comments would have hurt his feelings too.  I was offended for Little TDJ, for myself, and for other special needs parents and children.  So, I let loose on them.  In my head, it went something like this:

But, in reality, I spun around and said, “You don’t have a right to know, nor do I have a responsibility to educate you but I will so that someone meaner than me won’t whoop your asses one day.  My wonderful son has autism.  Neither his counting or sucking a pacifier to calm down are any of your f*cking business.  He’s not retarded but clearly you’re both stupid as hell.  Watch your mouths and mind your business!”  I was shaking when I finished.  I whipped back around and paid for my groceries.  From behind me, four other patrons were doing this:

Once Little TDJ and I got into the car, I thought of a million other things that I could have and should have said to them.  But, in that moment, I was too emotional and I’m lucky that I was even able to be that coherent.

I recognize that we all people watchIt’s human nature.  We notice things and we make assumptions.  Then sometimes, we take our assumptions a step further and make judgments and often, when in the presence of others, we turn those judgments into jokes to be shared.  I’m not the moral authority on anything, but I suggest using more empathy and I encourage folks to not be so quick to make assumptions and harsh judgments.


45 thoughts on “When A Mama Bear Reacts

  1. I say you were well within your rights to go snap crazy on them. I would have finished off with a “bitch,” but that’s just my preference. Clearly, their mamas didn’t raise them right if they have the gall to discuss anyone’s child or child rearing.

  2. From my computer desk, I am also clapping!!!!

    Go you, I’m so glad you said something. That will allow them to use their brains the next time they want to make a slap judgment on someone’s circumstances.

    I’m so sorry you had to go through this and in front of your son. But I am thankful for your boldness!!!

  3. people can be rude as f*ck sometimes. I don’t like to judge how anyone parents unless they are CLEARLY doing a poor job and that is some how affecting me( which has never happened and I hope it never will). Those women deserved everything you gave them. You seem to me to be so very sweet so I understand you feeling some kind of way afterward. If it were you talking about them they would have reacted the same way or worse. Defend your child! You’re his mama and those b*tches were wrong. As you can probably tell, reading this made me angry! I don’t like bullies and punk ass bullies are even worse.

    P.S he’s so stinkin cute!!!

  4. MrsTDJ, you got my pressure up for a minute and now I’m fighting back tears. You handled them perfectly. An intelligent response with just enough fire and curses to set them straight.

    You may not know, but you’ve taught me a heap about compassion many years ago concerning obesity. Those lessons (via email, having never set eyes on you) have made me more compassionate and empathetic towards other. Thank you! I think your past has well equipped you to handle what’s to come concerning that adorable, intelligent son of yours.

  5. Wow. I’m sorry you had to go through this. I know you tried to hold it back but that feeling to want to defend yourself (even to strangers) is very strong sometimes. Those ladies were very rude and very much should have kept their opinions to themselves. I’m glad you put them in their place. I am sure they have learned from it.

  6. Oh I would have gone off too!! People are so ignorant! I hate the r word too…just not right!! I think your reaction was very appropriate!!

  7. The good thing is that you’re not writing this from a jail cell from whooping someone’s arse. The bad is that unfortunately you’ll probably have to go through this a few more times. My neighbor’s son is autistic and they have had their share of incidents and bail money stays ready. Let’s just hope people learn before you have to re-enact Jerry Springer scenes on them. Stay blessed.

    • THIS right here.. reading this my blood began to boil.. I know I’m late to this post but I was really waiting to see if you put one of their heads in the freezer that’s on the side of the checkout aisle or slapped them silly.. *sorry I think violence first.. I’m gone get better I promise*

      Thank you for continuing to make us aware and teach us.. You definitely deserve the applause.. and Iwill continue to applaud you cause you are doing an awesome job mommy!

  8. I’m sorry this happened to you but the sad reality is this was the first but probably not the last time you will encounter such ignorance, and every time I think you need to school these folks on their level of ignorance. Kiss baby TDJ for me

  9. I just have I say that I LOVE that GIF.

    The thing about free speech and communication is, we have to recognize that people can and will respond. So, since they felt the need to speak Loud enough for you to hear, you were well within your rights to respond. I don’t think I could’ve come up with anything logical in that situation. I wonder I’d they even know what autism is.

  10. Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.

  11. I’m proud of you MrsTDJ. As a parent I sense the judgement of others all the time. Sometimes that judgement crosses boundaries. That discussion was intended to insult and shame you. It called for a response. You showed them that the shame belonged on them.


  12. Wooo ! This has my blood boiling. Your response was right on time. They made sure that you heard them, so they should have been prepared to deal with your response whether it was an a$& whooping or a tongue lashing ! What a wonderful lesson in compassion. People need to learn and understand the power of His grace & mercy. Any one of us can wake up tomorrow and be dealing with innumerable situations that can and will change your life forever !

  13. Those women decided to be evil and nasty. If they wanted to talk about you, they did not need to stand behind you and speak so you and your child could hear. When my kids are having meltdowns, most people I encounter either get away, speak to them in soothing tones or distract them.

    If their evil does not cut their life short, they will live to see their second childhood and they will reap that nasty.

    I posted about a woman I had to physically threaten when she decided to talk crazy to my cooing infant. People are so stingy and greedy, they think they own the world. We share it! Now I need to breathe. I hope those shrews felt shame after you were done and the folks clapped.

  14. Man, this made me angry.

    I have a little cousin who is like my little brother because we grew up in the same household. He has autism and it always seemed like no one understood him like I did. So it would get me really angry when people would stare when he made a too loud noise, or screamed for no reason at all. I didn’t really know how to handle it to be honest. So although he is an adult (21) now, I relate to this post 100%.

    You were so good with your response. Sometimes I get so mad that I freeze and don’t respond the way I want to, but you did such an awesome job with your response. I’m pretty sure if anyone talked about my bro like that I would have gotten physical.

    People are so ridiculous. You did a great job of putting them in their place.

  15. with tears in my eyes, i applaud you. i have so much i wanna say but the words escape me. i just look at your beautiful little boy and encounters like this one just makes me want to scream. people are beyond ignorant! thank you for putting these two in their places. maybe next time they’ll think before they speak or better yet they’ll keep their opinions to themselves. i’m going out on a limb and hoping that they actually learned something that day.

  16. On our flight back from Puerto Rico, my daughter was tired and cranky and insisted that she sit by her father who was seated in the opposite lane. Well, this was during take off and my husband and I could not switch seats, so of course she started to cry. The woman seated in front of us turned around to my husband and angrily encouraged us to switch seats and made it pretty obvious that she was unhappy (and that’s putting it nicely). My husband started to cave, and then I sort of snapped and said loudly, ” No! I’m not switching seats. That woman has two teenagers with her. Were they never 2? They never cried?” I said something else to him along the lines of ‘if she turned around one more time, we were going to have a problem.’ Five minutes later my child fell asleep. Then I questioned whether or not I handled the situation correctly. As we exited the airport another passenger came over to me and said, “Good for you for sticking up for yourself. That woman was a real bitch.”

    I don’t understand people who get their rocks off by judging parents. I don’t understand people who have no tolerance for small children. And to toss around the r-word so callously, well I have no words for that. Good for you for standing up for yourself and save those million other things you could have said so that the next time (though I really hope there won’t be one) something like this happens, you’ll know exactly what you want to say.

  17. Awww. smh. First this virtual hug ((((((((((HUG))))))))) is for you because it could have gone worse and you could be blogging from county lock up! But really, it never ceases to amaze me how ignorant and mean people really are. As a former childcare provider and as a mother of 5 I know that all children are special and different in various ways and it is frustrating when people make assumptions and are quick to judge. I wish I could have seen their faces after their class on ignorance! Could you have handled it differently? Yes, but it could also have been worse. So it is what it is and I’m sure everyone involved learned something this day.
    I once threatened to slap a woman in the church sanctuary for trying to tell me how to parent mine and told her to get her barren a$$ a man, have some kids and then come see me. So you know, we all have a breaking point, we just grow past it!

  18. People can be so ugly sometimes. While everyone is entitled their opinion, it doesn’t need to be verbalized. They were so out of line. I sometimes get irritated by the actions of others. What happened to you is going to make me be a little less opinionated. I do applaud you! As parents we have to be our children’s biggest advocate!

  19. I’m so sorry this happened to you. Bravo to standing up for your baby! You already know I agree wholeheartedly with the snap. Those tricks deserved it! That is All!

  20. You handled that well and what you said was perfect. I can’t imagine me doing anything but crying and flipping their cart over. I can’t wait to see you guys on Sunday!

  21. Well done. Sometimes people ridicule what they do not understand and are insensitive in their remarks. I learned long ago, don’t judge what you do not know or understand and it took someone teaching me that lesson.

  22. Wow. High five, fellow mama in arms. I would not have had that much self-control to come up with any of those lines. I haven’t been openly confronted yet (fingers crossed), but I do have conversations in my head for these people in preparation for that day. I just hope I will have some good words to throw their way. Way to go.

  23. I hate that you and your son had to go through that. I think you conquered the situation well. You did what you were suppose to. A lot of people do not know or understand. As a mother, I hurt for you and that situation. You felt what your child would have felt. I know I get really upset and emotional when my kids report to me what a classmate has said to them that was mean.

  24. Bravo to you! People can be so mean sometimes. I remember a friend being annoyed and shooting angry looks at a mother because her baby was crying and it took her awhile to calm him down and I told my friend “what do you expect, it’s a baby…they cry!”. I don’t know why people don’t understand this. I know how it is being in public and your child starts crying, screaming, or yelling. People who try to distract the child or talk to them in soothing tone have hearts. Those like those two heffas can go play in traffic.

  25. I can only say “Bravo!” and “Right on!”. I know your Son is very proud of you. He has always known you have his back no matter what-and you can’t say that about all parents!

  26. My favorite part of this awful situation/delicious response is that the other store customers were applauding! My son, too, has an autism spectrum disorder. But whether it’s that or any other type of special need, we parents stand together. People should keep their smug comments to themselves.

  27. My only similar experience of public rudeness (so far) was a middle-aged couple at a library who made a snide remark after my son raced far ahead of me and started stimming by flashing his hand in front of an electronic door monitor. “SOMEBODY’s not being watched properly,” the snooty woman said as she walked past me. I was so physically tired and sleep-deprived, unable to keep up with this ball of energy. “You THINK?!!” I snapped back, before catching up with my son. … Most people have no idea of how much planning, cajoling, patience and energy this takes. We’re good, devoted parents.

  28. You had EVERY right to go all the way LEFT to defend your child!! I applaud you from Houston!!

    And thank you for educating us on autism. I think that something like this is always abstract until we have friends or family or framily that it touches.

    Hug little TDJ for me!

  29. I am so glad you spoke up! And from the hand claps it sounds like many others felt the same way. There are many ignorant people out there and they need to be put in their place & educated. You go mama!!! xo

  30. I am in tears reading this MrsTDJ. This broke my heart for him and for you. I’m so glad you said something to them. Serves them right. You are a awesome mom and Lil TDJ is a awesome kid. Love you both.

  31. Let me say that I am very proud of you and this is the first time I’m visiting your blog! I am a mother of a 16 year old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome. You brought back so many memories for me, so many. I love the way you handled the women, but don’t ever feel pressured to feel you need to “explain” your son to anyone. But I bet you this…it’s a lesson they won’t soon forget. Little TDJ has been blessed to have a loving momma that will go all the way with a stranger for him! It gets better, I just dropped my daughter off at an birthday party, she was too hyped! They will live, love and have a wonderful life…you have me crying now, we must be a voice for our babies. Great post and you now have a new cyber friend.

  32. I think you handled it beautifully! Angry or not, I hope you were proud of yourself. You did right by your son and yourself. Good job, mom.

    Stopping by from SITS. Have a great weekend.

  33. So sorry you had to experience such ignorance. Here’s hoping the rest of the day was much better than that. Thanks for visiting and hanging out during the SITS Saturday Sharefest.

  34. I completely agree with what you did. Our job as parents are to protect our children as we see fit. Obviously those two dumbasses needed what you gave them the way you gave it to them.

  35. Sometimes, I am extremely saddened by not being closer to you. However, this is probably one of those moments, it is good I am in GA. I don’t think, wait I know I would not have any restraint if I was with you. You would have had to put the groceries back and head down to county to get me out! I am proud of how you handled the situation One of the worse feelings is when you are mulling over what you should have did or said. Adults need schooling too AND it is not good for you to hold in that anger. Love you Mama Bear!

  36. you did right!!!! People need to watch themselves and educate themselves in order to keep from saying stupid ignorant shit. My son isn’t autistic but he too yells in the store because he is excited about whats going on around him. And so I let him express himself. Sometimes I tell him “ok let’s use our inside voice” but he still so excited because he recognizes things and points them out and counts etc etc.

    F’ what people have to say! I’m glad you told them off and LOL at your Iron man gif. It was definitely a verbal version of that. You go girl! Big hugs!! i ahven’t been on here in a while and i need to be catching up!!! 🙂

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