We all know them. The grownups who, if they were still kids, could be diagnosed with Aspergers. The ones with completely inappropriate social skills and who, without a doubt, have no long-term close-knit friendships. In an attempt to be a nice person, I like to call them ‘special people’.
Today one of them crossed my path. Grrrrr…
A sweet elderly lady began talking to Sofia (I think we’re gonna take the ‘j’ out) while we were out today. She said a couple of times, “You are so beautiful!” My daughter responded with an earful of Serbian and so the nice lady looked at me and asked, “Do you speak English?” I told her yes and that we had just adopted our daughter from Serbia and that she had only been an American for the past twelve days.
Before we came across the nice lady, we walked past this woman who was very obviously watching us. At this point in the conversation with the nice lady, the stalker lady started walking towards us and before she was even in my line of sight, said, “I adopted my daughter from the Ukraine eight years ago when she was only eight months old. She asked me yesterday what her name was before she was my daughter and I told her that it was none of her business. She’ll just have to wait until she’s eighteen if she wants to go back to that life.”
Awkward way to start a conversation, but this woman has adopted from eastern Europe. So I thought for a second that she may have an ounce of wisdom to share with me.
I’ve developed many online relationships with other adoptive moms in the past eight months based on this one common thread. Some of them have given me advice and shared wisdom from their own experiences that I have found priceless. Some of them have even helped me avoid some pretty big mistakes. And who knows? Maybe some of my online friends are ‘special people’.
So while my daughter stood there rocking from one foot to the other, making figure eights with her head and producing a low growl, I made eye contact with the woman and said, “We loved her name and since so much about her world is already changing, we have decided to keep it. I guess we’re lucky that it’s a pronouncible common English name. (chuckle)”
This woman, who is over six feet tall and has the shoulders of a linebacker, grabs little 5’5″ me by the arm with her right hand. At the same time, she grabs my daughter by the arm with her left hand. The low growl now turns into a very loud tigerish growl. She pulls us both into the doorway of the bathroom that is just behind her, releases my daughter, puts her index finger in my face, and says, “I highly suggest that you take her to Children’s Hospital immediately and have her evaluated. She has a psychiatric disorder that they haven’t told you about. Do you know anything about the autism spectrum.”
You’ve gotta be kiddin’ me! I’m still wanting to slap this woman for grabbing me and my daughter by the arm. The reaction that her comments were evoking was much uglier than a simple slap. I wanted to put her in her place.
After a very long awkward heated pause, (during which I removed her hand from my arm) I responded with, ” I happen to have a son who is autistic. I’ve been parenting on the ‘spectrum’ for about a decade. We were matched with our daughter because of our experience. Are you only familiar with it because of your Aspergers, or do your children also fall on the spectrum?”
Her mouth fell open and she stared at me.
I stared back.
No response for several seconds.
I then grabbed Sofia by the arm (as her mother I have the right to do so) and said, “Come on, baby girl. Let’s go.”
But no000000…. She couldn’t just leave it at that. She says, “Who do you think is gonna educate her? The schools will just warehouse her like they did my daughter.”
The urge to slap was growing stronger. I knew that I had to end this conversation and walk away or end up in the backseat of a military police cruiser. I really did not want my daughter to experience jail within two weeks of arriving in America and this is probably not a good point in my husband’s career for his wife to be arrested on a military installation.
I turned again and looked at her and said, “My son is main-streamed full-time now in the third grade. He is where he is today because he’s had great educators and because I’ve fought tooth and nail to make sure that he is given every opportunity to succeed. The schools only “warehouse” (and yes, I used finger quotes) children whose parents aren’t proactive enough to make sure that doesn’t happen. Maybe you should be a bigger advocate for your daughter.”
Then I walked away. And no. I don’t feel bad about putting her in her place. She was begging for it.