Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Disarming All Hostility

When I'm out with my son in public settings, including at Mass, I'm usually on the defensive, waiting for someone to comment on his behavior.  I wish this weren't true, but the feeling has intensified quite a bit since I read, with a cringing sense of mortification, the Christian-mom-of-many-blogger Smockity Frocks's really rather vicious account of her vast patience in dealing with an obviously autistic little girl and the girl's grandmother in the library.  Nevertheless, in spite of what I think of as my emotional preparedness -- though sometimes I wonder if I'm actually spoiling for a fight -- no one has ever said anything.

Today, however, I was sitting on a bench at the playground with a friend when a woman approached me to tell me about some egregious things my son had just said to her.  I apologized, made him apologize, and explained simply, "My son is on the autism spectrum, and we're working on a few things."

This response completely disarmed her.  We started to really talk.  We ended up embracing.  And she told me about her thirty-year-old daughter, who's deaf and developmentally disabled and living with a man who has tried to kill her.  She's expecting his child in December.  Because she's an adult and refuses to acknowledge the abuse, much less press charges, neither the police nor adult protective services can do anything about it.  The daughter qualifies for a job at a sheltered workshop, but she refuses this and all other services, because she was mercilessly ostracized by her peers growing up and doesn't want anyone to think she's more disabled than she believes herself to be.

Dear readers, would you please pray for this young woman's safety and peace, and that of her unborn child?  May God reward you for your prayers.

As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, "If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility."

10 comments:

Melanie B said...

I will certainly pray.

Mrs C said...

Stopping to pray right now.

Rodak said...

I certainly will. The Longfellow quote is one to remember.

Anne-Marie said...

I will certainly pray.

I have been thinking about this post, and the cached one you linked to, and another tangentially related one, for several days. It seems to me that it all comes down to the difference between judging an act and judging a person. People can quite reasonably be disturbed or annoyed at a child's behavior, but it's not okay to make the jump to "that child is spoiled" or "she's a bad mother."

The difference is especially stark in a single encounter, because while a single instance of unruly behavior may well be disturbing, a single instance of parenting is nothing like grounds for a global assessment.

Pentimento said...

I think that, in our fallenness, we all tend to define and describe ourselves by deciding and articulating what we are not. So if we see some annoying, shocking, or incomprehensible situation going on, we think, "that's not me, that's not something I'd ever do, what is wrong with those people, thank God I'm not like this publican," etc. Although I'm on the "other side" as the mother of an autistic child, I think it's probably remarkably easy to do what Smockity Frocks did. I would even excuse it if she hadn't used that poor little girl and her grandmother as fodder to bolster her own self-image, stem her own insecurity, and feed her own hunger for admiration. But then I have to remember what Longfellow said. It's unkind to make fun of children, disabled or otherwise, but I'm sure if I knew Smockity's real heart it would disarm all my anger at the hurt her post has caused me and many other mothers. It's so much more *fun* to be a hater, though. Sigh.

Anne-Marie said...

Yes, "thank God I'm not like this publican" is a big part of it. At least I know it is for me.

Pentimento said...

And for all of us. : )

Rodak said...

There, but for fortune...

MrsDarwin said...

"A kind word turneth away wrath."

That woman and her daughter, and you and your son, are in my prayers. You have a disarming gentleness of spirit, Pentimento, that is a lovely example to me.

Pentimento said...

Thank you, Mrs. Darwin. And thank you for your kind words, especially since I think I'm sort of a b*tch a lot of the time.

But, as Czeslaw Milosz said in a late poem (quoted up at the top of this blog): "I was not separated from people, grief and pity joined us./We forget -- I kept saying -- that we are all children of the King."