Have you ever been in the store with your child and they do something off-putting? Like fart loudly (without compunction), or make a really racist remark? My motherly tendency is to absorb the umbrage that follows these types of incidents, even though I have nothing to do with what happened. I didn’t teach the words or manufacture the flatulence. The dumpster fire beside me started itself.
Parker (my little dumpster fire) and I have spent significant time in government agencies this past week. He is on the brink of legal adulthood and we are running down a checklist of necessary legal steps.
The first one was at the social security office. I had exercised that morning and did not have time to shower or put on makeup. And since I don’t wear clean clothes until after I shower, I went in my workout clothes. We showed up right as the office opened, and it was already brimming with people.
My autistic child, Parker — soon to be an adult autistic child — has only one volume of voice: Loud. So even when he’s having a casual conversation everyone around us can hear it.
“Mom, is everyone here on welfare?”
“Will they think I’m a terrorist if I leave and come back?”
“Why are you so considerate of everyone else, but not your own child?”
Parker was not happy to be there. All he wanted to do was sit in the car. However, I needed him to be present for the process.
After being rude and obnoxious had failed to get him sent to the car — it came close — he faked a cough and sneeze attack. It was a noteworthy performance punctuated by the perfectly delivered, Oscar-clinching line:
“Mom. Do you think all these people appreciate me spreading my germs around?”
I let him go out to the car.
For our second trip to a government agency, I was again not showered and wearing workout clothes.
This time we were going to the DOL. I had tried to make an online appointment to get Parker a Texas ID. The soonest appt. they had was 4/24, which is just days before we leave town for another nursing assignment. So I wanted to see if we could get a sooner appointment by just showing up.
We arrived to find a line out the door. Parker looked at it and said, “No way,” but I made him stand.
He took this opportunity to go on about, “Stupid Biden,” stating, “Look at our tax dollars at work,” because the office was short-staffed.
Because we make sense when we speak (most of the time). Besides, I don’t insult anyone ~ not a president, not a celebrity, not anyone. I think it’s beneath me. I just have to say all of this because we have been accused of making the comments in our home that come out of Parker’s mouth in public. Believe it or not, the kid has ideas of his own, and he doesn’t care about my opinions anyway. Nonetheless, the sting of embarrassment and subsequent judgement of others is is part of the “dumpster fire” experience.
There was a newly married lesbian couple behind us in line, and a green-haired woman with a pregnant teenage daughter in front of us, and Parker chose this time to go down the Biden rabbit hole. Because of course he would.
The kicker was we were one document short, so we were told to come back another time.
But this time I had my hair and makeup done and wore a cute outfit. We had all the documents completed and ready to present, yet they would not squeeze him in without an appointment. We left with a new appointment in ten days, but it was in an awful part of the city.
On our way home, Parker wanted to check out Game Stop. I followed his directions and we ended up at a mall. He went in alone, and I explained that he would need to find his way to and from the Game Stop. About fifteen minutes later he called me frantic that he couldn’t find his way back out of the mall.
I told him to jog his memory. “What did you see on the way in?”
The only thing he remembered seeing was a Victoria’s Secret Pink store.
I told him to find that, and then he would be closer to where he entered the mall. We hung up.
I thought about going in to find him, but he’s almost an adult and needs to figure this stuff out.
About five minutes later he called. He was outside the mall, but couldn’t see my car. He was looking at a freeway and a bunch of fast food places. There was nothing like that where I was parked so I drove around the perimeter of the mall. I found him on the other side of the mall, as far from the entrance as he could possibly be.
It’s like having a six year old in a man’s body with a middle schooler’s sense of humor.
He can be very entertaining in small doses, but the schtick grows tired pretty fast for most. It really helps if nothing is asked of him.
My sweetheart is pretty good about walking away when Parker’s antics turn a situation weird. Ryan is fine not claiming the dumpster fire, but I stay. I see the looks on people’s faces. I feel this need to be a bridge between Parker and those he’s offending.
When I’m made-up and dressed nice I feel like I am above the dumpster fire. One of us may be out of control — him — but at least I am put together.
By looking nice I can signal that Parker comes from a good family with a well-dressed mother who communicates well.
When I’m not showered, made-up, or dressed like I’m ready for the day, I feel I look the part of a dumpster fire that makes little dumpster fires. There is no presentable barrier to suggest that I am any different than what is coming out of Parker’s mouth (or nose, pits, rear-end, etc.).
Its funny that his biological father is the all-time biggest dumpster fire, yet he has never had to claim his little dumpster fire. Except for that one time when Parker’s grandparents invited a 12-year-old Parker (that they hadn’t seen in several years) for Christmas Eve. Parker made sure to tell his younger cousins that Santa isn’t real, and generally acted like a butt throughout the evening.
Many women stop doing their hair and make-up once they have kids. I was a single mom at 27, so that natural time of losing myself to the kids and setting the beauty workout aside never happened. I wanted a husband, and thankfully I found him rather quickly after my divorce.
However, we lived in a wealthy area and I felt very out of place. Literally, a rags to riches story, there was no way I was going around without doing my hair and make-up. It helped me feel like I belonged — there was no mystery why my husband chose me.
Then came the ADHD and autism, the fits at the store, the circus at the restaurant, and the concomitant glares from appalled people judging my ability to control my ever growing collection of children.
If I was well put together. By looking nice, I created a separation between myself and my kids’ behavior.
To this day, I feel better when I look better. It’s a small thing I can control. I’ve noticed others respond with less judgement, too, when I look like I shouldn’t be seated next to an off-putting dumpster fire.
“Who’s child is that yammering about South Park plot points? Surely not hers.”
“Oh, I guess he is hers. That’s weird. Well, she’s working awfully hard to handle the difficult hand she was given. God bless her efforts.” At least this is what they’re saying in my head.
I feel like a tightly wound suspension bridge between my kids and everyone else. It’s been that way since Bryce was little and the ADHD took flight. My loyalty will always fall on the side of my kids, no matter how peculiar they may appear. I hope that by explaining they have autism that grace will be extended to them (and to me).
I like my hair and makeup routine. I’ve always said, I give the first hour of the day to myself for a workout and shower. It’s how I cope with whatever judgements come my way.
But honestly, nowadays it’s more like three hours.
Because that dumpster fire beside me is only getting bigger.
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