Being Watched

Only a strong flowing source of water could detoxify the outer layer of my son’s skin, removing all traces of psuedo-chocolate and gooey synthetic ice cream. “Come walk with me”, I requested, holding out my hand. Miraculously, he followed me to the familiar outdoor beach showers.

Just the day before, he’d spent 15-minutes having the time of his life, darting in and out the icy streams of water, dancing between the bodies of my daughter’s swim class. Today, shrieks of terror. Whatever peace I’d felt, was shattered.

Impatiently, I lifted him into the spray, quickly wiping him down, ignoring his shrieking protest. Stepping back into the hot sun, I plopped him onto the sand with “there” and “wait”. He stared up at me, instantly silent.

I bent to release a sharp pebble from my beach shoe. I could no longer ignore the sensation that two holes were burning into my back. I turned to find the source, locking eyes with a glaring beach mother. In those few brief seconds, Daniel took full advantage, darting away, out of sight around the corner of the Snack Shack.

A few seconds later, I skidded around the same corner, stopping in amazement. There he was, standing tippy-toe, yelling up toward the beach’s Snack Shack order window , “Hey! You!”.

Freeze Frame: This is one of those hindsight moments that you later look back on, realizing your child may very well have had some developmental issues when “Hey! You!” is as stunning and pleasing to your ears as if he’d just recited the Declaration of Independence.

Back to the beach – In response to his request for help, a Snack Shack worker peeked over the window ledge, saying, “Oh, there you are! Did you want something?”.

“Please, an ice cream sandwich”, he said. Please? A sentence AND “please”! Daniel speaking words was a rarity, but for them to be contextual, was stunning to me.

I inarticuately exclaimed, “wow” as I ran up to the window. The poor girl behind the counter was trying her best to explain, “I’m sorry, and you are such a sweet boy the way you asked, but we don’t have any but we should have more tomorrow, so you can try again then, okay, and boy, you sure are cute, such pretty big brown eyes and that darling little face…..”.

Overwhelming him with language, I thought to myself as Daniel ignored her. “Please, an ice cream sandwich”, was his drone request.

I gently took him by his shoulders, saying, “Look! A playground!”, as experience had taught me only too well if Daniel didn’t acquire the object of his desire, there would be a temper tantrum extraordonaire. Handling him much like an explosives expert might handle a possible bomb, my goal was to relocate him, as quickly as I could, to a less public section of the beach before he “blew”.

The moment I touched him, his body tensed in the same manner my parrots do, just before they launch into flight. T-minus-five and counting, he threw himself down, face-first on the cement screaming, “no no no no no no”. My snatch ‘n grab timing skills, having been perfected of late, enabled me to swoop him up a split second before he face-painted the sidewalk with his blood.

It was then I heard The Voice. “You’d better get a grip on him because when he turns 14, you are REALLY going to have a BIG problem. You aren’t going to be able to throw him across your shoulders and carry him off when he’s bigger, that’s for darn sure”. It wasn’t spoken directly to my face. It was blasted into the back of my head. I gritted my teeth and turned to see The Source – the very same beach mother who had spent most of the last three hours boring holes in my back with her stares. I turned away, ignoring her, walking towards the lake.

She would have none of it, leaping into my path yet again, repeating her self-important wisdom. I calmly asked, “Do I know you”. She glared, finally saying, “No”. I said, “I didn’t think so”. I swung around her commanding, “stay and do not follow me”, whisking Daniel away.

Did Daniel have behavior “problems”? Sure. I was cognitively aware something was “different” about his behavior. Doctor after doctor told us his delays were due to any number of reasons, but that with encouragement and love, he’d catch up with all the other children. Friend after friend had provided me with ample reasons for why he behaved the way he did: He was a boy. Boys developed slower than girls. He had an artistic temperament.

Did Daniel’s behavior “problems” warrant an obnoxious stranger’s reproach? Absolutely not. Hers was just the first of several more stranger events of unsolicited advice.


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