I’m angry and a little bit sad.
We had to take the boys shopping on Saturday, we had some things we needed to exchange and it was getting to the last date for exchange. So off we went shopping in Peterborough’s Queensgate Shopping Centre.
As you come out of the lifts from the car park, there is a cookie store and one of those electronic ride on things. So the first obstacle to getting anywhere near a shop is to get 2 young children past the ride on – Failed dismally. They know it’s there.
So we give them £2 and tell them they can have 3 rides (as that’s what it says on the “How much we’re going to fleece you” label). They have 2 rides and are smiling happily knowing they have another to come. Except for some reason the ride-on decides it’s not going to provide the 3rd ride as promised. And that’s when the trouble started.
You know where I’m going with this don’t you?
So we’ve moved on to the point where we now have one older child accepting the loss of the ride, and one child screaming like a banshee who is refusing to walk anywhere at all, let alone all the way down to Marks and Spencer’s. Disappointing any child is bad enough but disappointing a child with Autism is not something to be undertaken lightly.
Baby Boudica the Younger’s chosen method of protest is the ear splitting shriek coupled with throwing himself on the floor. Face down + stone floor = cut lip. Things go from bad to worse very quickly.
So we need somewhere to have a look at Baby Boudica’s face, who is now shrieking and crying and attracting an awful lot of attention. So while half dragging him through the shopping centre, all the time telling him that if he insists on throwing himself face down on the floor, it is going to hurt, we’re getting lots of looks of utter horror.
You know the ones – the “what awful parents”, the “what a naughty child”, the “why can’t they control that child” etc etc. They seemed to fail to notice that said child had blood dripping out of his mouth and maybe, just maybe we could have done with some help at that point. Either that, or they did see the dripping blood and thought we’d been battering our child, but still didn’t see fit to offer to assist in any way.
There are seats in the shopping centre, but they’re all full of sleeping old people and teenagers, none of whom seem keen to move on. Shopping centre staff walk past us glaring as by this time, Baby Boudica is proving that he can make A LOT of noise.
So we go to the Information Desk. I sit him on the desk, long enough to clean him up, check his wound and give him a cuddle. There was a lady on the other end of the Information Desk speaking to a customer. She tutted in unison with the customer and they both proceeded to glare at us for making so much noise. No-one asked if we needed any help, no-one offered a first aid kit, no-one gave a damn at all about the bleeding child sitting on the desk. All they cared about was this extremely loud display of “naughty” and “uncontrollable” behaviour.
So well done you, staff of Queensgate Shopping Centre. The Award for “Numpty of the Day” goes to you. Did I mention how bloody minded I am? You think I’m ever going to spend money in your shopping centre again? You think I’m not going to shout very loudly how utterly useless and uncaring your staff are? Think again.
And speaking of Numpties, after quietening down Baby Boudica The Younger to a tolerable wail, we decided to exchange the items as fast as possible and go home. Although, apparently they’re not used to children who are seen and most definitely heard in Marks and Spencer’s.
Old Lady who was browsing the home ware department, just inside the door on Saturday afternoon – did your mother not teach you it’s rude to stare?
Most people will give you that look that marks you out as a terrible parent. I may well be a terrible parent, I’m almost certain that I probably am, but that doesn’t mean that my children should be stared at and turned into some kind of Saturday afternoon freak show. Can a child who is angry, frustrated and hurt not express themselves without everyone judging them?
I do not intend being housebound, trapped at home because the rest of the world thinks my children shouldn’t be seen out in public. I have the right to go shopping like everyone else, my children have the right to accompany me. Whatever their behaviour, that does not give you the right to judge, to stare, to tut, to criticise or to go home and tell your friends about the family from hell that you saw out shopping. I would be very careful about trying to take the moral high ground and lord it over parents you clearly think are failing and beneath you. You have higher to fall from the pedestal you’ve placed yourself on.
Since having 2 children diagnosed with Autism, I have developed a very thick skin and I am much, much more likely to tell you, to your face, exactly what I think of you. And let me tell you, I have seen you, judged you and found you wanting. Intolerance is just so….ugly. Or is it ignorance? I’m never sure. Either way, same difference – ugly.
Anyway, we exchanged the items and let me tell you, there was one lady who even managed to put a smile on Baby Boudica The Younger’s face – the checkout assistant in Marks and Spencer’s. She put a packet of toy fish that Baby Boudica the Younger wanted, through the checkout first, handed them to him and asked if he liked fish. Lovely lady, I hope M&S appreciate you, we certainly do.
See, not everyone has to be judgemental.
Our children may be “different” and sometimes their behaviour can be a little extreme but do they not deserve a little compassion? A little kindness? Or a little help when they’re bleeding? Is that really too much to ask?