We left Mass early today.
I was done. Paul had just whispered "so what do you want to do?" and I could tell that he didn't want to leave but I whispered back "leave right now" and somehow managed not to burst into tears.
It had been a rough half hour and I didn't have it in me to make it for another forty minutes until the doors opened up and we all tumbled back out into the sunlight.
Maggie's been going to therapy two days a week at her therapy center. She loves it there.
In the mornings she waits by the door, hoping she's going to go out to play in the colorful playroom with her new best friend.
She has a best friend.
And this is where it gets complicated.
For all the ups and downs we've dealt with, Mae's never been violent. But she has a new friend and apparently her friend has "behaviors." And Maggie thinks these "behaviors" are hilariously funny.
So she laughs before she runs up behind me and hits me and when I tell her no she hits me again and then hits herself, hard, still laughing (as if to show me "look Mom, don't say no! It really is fun), trying to get me to take up this new game that is apparently very, very attractive to my sensory seeking girl who has a very high threshold for proprioceptive input (in other words her joints need lots of input and she tends to think that things like getting hit by a swing and thrown ten feet should make her laugh instead of cry).
Ignoring it isn't working. Sternly saying no isn't working. In fact, nothing that usually works seems to be helping at all. Do I pull her out of those two days at the center, taking away the one friend her own age that she has? If I wait will these behaviors continue to increase and become second nature? Will she be a good influence on her new friend? If I pull her out will they stop?
Now you're probably wondering how this relates to Mass. Or maybe you aren't, but I'll tell you anyways as I get to the point of this post in a round about way.
Mae was having a good day at Mass. She was sitting next to me in her stroller quietly, cuddling her mermaid doll, occasionally reaching over to squeeze my hand.
Another mom brought a cute little toddler out of Mass and set her down on the floor. She toddled over and looked at Mae. Mae loves babies and toddlers. Her face glowed when she saw the little girl looking at her.
"Girl!" She shouted and started to squeal.
"Yes, she's a girl." I whispered the words. "We need to be quiet right now, remember. We're in Mass."
The words didn't get in. The squealing turned into loud, loud laughter as the little girl came closer. Paul, who'd had his hands full with Patch, came over to try to help. I stepped between Mae and the little girl as she walked up and tried to stand by Mae's feet and I looked over at her mother who'd glanced over and was now looking forward, apparently having decided not to act.
After ten minutes of trying to redirect Mae, of trying to keep the little girl away from her for her own safety (Mae loves babies... Mae also doesn't know her own strength so any interactions with very small people need to be seriously monitored and managed) and trying to hush Mae's excited giggles and squeals I'd been hit may thirty times and was done.
The little girl toddled away and tried to touch someone's empty car seat and was immediately reprimanded.
I kind of felt like tearing my hair out. It was very obvious that her daughter trying to stand two inches from Mae was causing huge problems for our entire family, that Mae had been sitting quietly until her daughter came up and stood right in front of her for ten minutes and nothing was done, but touch someone's car seat and she snapped into action.
And so when I got slapped one more time I was done. I was frustrated and tearful and James was now awake because of the commotion and done. The little girl was still toddling to and fro and would likely be over with us again within a few moments and I just couldn't stand there for a moment longer.
We left before the homily ended. "It was obvious, wasn't it? That I was trying to keep them apart? That she should have done something?" I said to Paul as we waited for the light to change so that we could walk home.
"It was obvious." He agreed as we crossed the street and I complimented Sadie on how well behaved she'd been.
Later at home I began to turn the attempt at attending Mass over in my head.
And for some reason another memory kept butting in.
I remembered a day at Pediatric Rehab when a boy came in for his first appointment. He was maybe eight or nine years old. He wasn't as small as Maggie and wasn't nearly as easy (if it can be called easy) to contain.
It was clear that it was his first day there, because his mother and father were buried under a mountain of paperwork and were checking off boxes and filling in insurance numbers, but right away, I could sense their apprehension.
Their son seemed to be on the spectrum and they were nervous, and he was nervous, and while they checked boxes they tried to contain his movements and any time a child tottered by to look at the fish tank I could feel their stress level climb from five seats away.
Sadie, who seems to think of herself as the personal welcoming committee of the waiting room usually flutters around talking to everyone. She colors on the chalkboard and points out fish, gets coloring pages for other kids and hands out crayons and talks and says things like "it was lovely talking with you today" when her OT comes to find her. Sometimes the other kids talk back and sometimes they don't and it doesn't really phase her because she's used to talking to someone who doesn't really talk back.
"Come here," I told her a few times that day as her bubbly friendliness began to turn in their direction, because even at the distance I could tell that she was too close for their comfort and I wished that there was a secret handshake or sign, or even words that wouldn't sound as terribly awkward as they sounded in my head to let them know that in a way I understood.
So mostly I sat frozen, wishing I could say something or do something to ease the incredible feeling of tenseness and finally not saying anything at all.
I have a daughter with autism and I didn't know what to do to help.
And I wondered if maybe that's how the other mother felt today.
With her squeals and sounds it becomes more clear every month that Mae isn't a typically developing almost-five-year old.
Maybe that other mother was worried if she hurried over and snatched her daughter away that we would be offended by the movement and be upset. There are so many articles and posts about how moms with disabilities wish you would treat their kids and maybe her common sense told her to let her little girl play with this little girl who was a little bit different (and outside of Mass I would be all for that!).
Or maybe she was just oblivious and happy that her daughter was being quiet while she was standing by our family.
Either way, we survived (if you call leaving half way through surviving). And tomorrow I'll be making a few phone calls so that hopefully we can begin addressing this new "behavior" which I will be praying is incredibly short lived... At least so far it seems to be limited to me. I hope it stays that way.