I took the kids to Target the other day to buy party hats for my birthday. (I was 39 on Friday. No, there was no party. They just wanted party hats. We all wore them.) I took all of them to the bathroom before we headed over to Purvis Park. Ellie quickly realized that the acoustics in the loo were conducive to making her often-incessant vocalizing really loud, really vibrato and much more interesting than usual. She moved in her frenetic way, back and forth in front of the sinks, singing her proprietary song, really working the acoustics of the tile. A woman came in. She observed all my kids in various stages of handwash, dress-fix, toilet flush, and then her eyes rested on Ellie.
"What is that about?" she asked.
"What is what?" (I had Helen half out of a stall, pulling her dress out of her underwear, while Emma wailed that she couldn't reach the sink by herself).
"What is she doing?" She pointed a painted finger at Ellie. Now that I really looked at this woman, she was neither young nor old, but she definitely had a way around her eyes that I didn't like. I recognized it later as judgment.
"She is vocalizing." I patted Emma's hands dry.
"But what is it? I've never seen a child do this before."
"She has a spectrum disorder. This type of behavior is very common."
Her eyes grew wide, wide. "She does this all the time?"
"A lot. Yes."
Pause. "And you allow this?"
I've had hot flashes recently. They are generally horrible and wipe me out for hours after. I got very, very hot in that bathroom. A hot flash it wasn't.
"There is no allowing or not allowing. This is what her brain is telling her to do. It's neurological." I tried to get the twins to move closer to the door to cue Ellie that yes, we are leaving. Right. Now.
"Well, I'm not sure that bringing her out is the best idea. I mean, this is very disturbing." Now the woman's lips are pursed, and her hands are more stiff, and I feel the big eye of disapproval making its way to me.
I have no idea what possessed me. None. I have no idea how the filter from my brain to my mouth just chose that moment to open. But it did. And in one fell swoop, I said, "Well, I am certainly sure of one thing, lady. You're an asshole." And I grabbed Ellie's arm and shooshed my kids out the door, bags in tow.
I am mad at myself for a couple reasons. I used bad language in front of my kids, which is not the model I should show and I feel terrible about it. I could have used the opportunity to teach this woman something about spectrum disorders, but just couldn't. In that closed moment, when all I sensed was an attack on my child, I could hardly focus on the didactic. And now she's going to go to bridge or Red Hats or whatever she does and say, well, whatever is wrong with those kids, it's all the mother's fault. I can't help it now.
But she was an asshole. And pretending that I didn't say it isn't going to make it any less true. So shame on me for swearing, but double shame on her for judging. I think I know which is worse.