Back in September when I wrote about my terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad experience with Joy's first day of kindergarten, I mentioned another even-worse breakdown that I'd have to write about someday. That experience came back to me this week at swim lessons, so I think it's time to tell the story.
During Tuesday's lesson, I was avidly peering through the glass at the pool waiting-room, watching Joy interact with a new swim teacher. (The wonderful one she started with has left the school, gah! but Joy loves the water so much that she smiled for the new gal anyway.) All of a sudden, a daddy behind me started telling me and another mom how he was a victim in a bizarre robbery incident that got written up in the newspaper. I'm thinking, gosh this guy looks familiar. As he proudly told us how he hassled the cops because he didn't want to tell them his name, and resented that they hassled him back, the feeling of familiarity grew. And suddenly, it clicked. I'd met this guy four years ago at the Children's Museum.
It was about this time of the season in 2007, and I'd been taking Joy to a weekly toddler-music program at the museum. It wasn't an easy thing to do. Joy likes music, but she didn't participate the way the other kids did, and I had to hover carefully to make sure she didn't grab for the other kids' tambourines or whatever. It had only been a few short months since the diagnoses that put the autism and LNSS labels to Joy's situation, labels that still sat like a massive weight on my shoulders.
Suddenly Joy decided she was all-done, and headed for the door. There were two little girls in her way, and instead of going around them like I expected, she gave the first one a shove. The two went down like dominoes, with the second domina grazing her head on a table on the way to the floor. A little blood, a lot of wailing -- and as I started to apologize to the girls' father -- THIS GUY -- his face twisted with anger and he snarled/spat "Thanks a LOT!" He hustled his daughters furiously out of the room before I could say another word.
And I started to bawl. The ugly-cry. Hot, awful tears that would not stop. The sobs just got worse when people started being kind to me... an acquaintance who worked another children's museum program and told me that "this guy" had a museum-wide reputation for unpleasant interactions... another mom with a kiddo on the spectrum who had made great progress... yet another mom who pointed out that any kid might have dealt that shove. It was all so supportive, and yet I couldn't pull it together. Someone even went and tipped off "this guy," who tried to apologize to me on the way out. I was over-reacting so hard to his initial over-reaction, I could hardly acknowledge him. It's a wonder I didn't crash the car on the way home.
Four years later. Once again "this guy" and I have our kids in the same program -- but this time my girl has the support she needs and is having a ball, and I'm in a much better place too, the start of kindergarten notwithstanding. It's kind of amazing to look back over those years and see how far we've come, how much we've learned, how much we've done, how much Joy has grown and matured and progressed.
It has gotten better.
And, we may even be switching our swim lessons to another day so we can have yet a third teacher this term, who happens to be the same wonderful teacher who taught Joy's very first swim lessons in the summer of 2008. Which would have the nice little bonus that I wouldn't even have to hang out poolside with "this guy"!