Dear Grandmother from the park:
You probably don’t remember me, but I remember you. You see, I used to be just like you, although I never would’ve been as vocal about it. I was one of those people in the grocery store who couldn’t stand the sound of a screaming child. I still can’t stand it, but not for the same reasons: now I wonder if the child is overly sensitive to sound and light, or if they have been stretched past their point of self-control. I don’t always assume kids are “typical” anymore because sometimes it’s so hard to tell. How I wish you knew this fact.
You see, this wasn’t our first visit to the train park. My son loves that place more than just about anywhere else on earth, and we’ve worked very hard to make visiting there pleasant for all of us. We’ve been going for years, but going with a friend is something he’s never experienced. I took him and his one friend, the first real friend he’s ever had, there after school. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him as excited as he was that day, hands flapping as I picked them up, jumping up and down as we waited in line for the train.
Perhaps it was my mistake, but after years of his begging, I finally agreed to let him ride in the enclosed kids’ caboose in the back. I’ve never let him go on the caboose because I wasn’t sure how he’d handle it. What if it terrified him? There’s nothing that can be done until the train ride is over, and I can’t be in there with him to help him. But this time, with his special friend, I thought perhaps it was time.
Sure enough, he screamed the entire time – but happily. Stopping only to breathe, he continued his high-pitched, excited screaming for pretty much the whole ride around the park. In the car in front of the caboose, just far enough away that he couldn’t hear me, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He was clearly so thrilled to be in that caboose he couldn’t even contain himself. Yet at the same time, I suspected some of the other kids didn’t like it, despite some of their eager participation in the screaming themselves.
When the train stopped, I waited outside the caboose, speech prepared to remind him that when other people make loud, unexpected noises it scares him, and how he needs to remember there are other people around. Of course he let out one last little screech, which prompted you to scream yourself, so angrily, “Oh, STOP that SCREAMING already!” Everyone standing there snapped their heads up at your tone, except my C, who was oblivious. Fortunately, you weren’t even on the train yourself (your granddaughter being able to go alone), so you didn’t witness the entire trip. Although I’m sure your granddaughter filled you in on the highlights.
I had the chat with my C, after which he was appropriately chagrined. I saw you take your granddaughter over to the carousel, and I thought about approaching you to explain. I wanted so desperately to educate you about what we’ve gone through to get where we are. I wavered, not wanting to seem like a parent who makes excuses for their child, but also not wanting you to get away with feeling so self-righteous about this supposedly horribly behaved child of mine. I was so angry at you and people like you I wanted to strike a figurative blow for all of us parents out there who work so hard to even take our kids anywhere. We try so hard to protect your sensibilities, but frankly, I’m a little fed up at this point with worrying about people like you.
So I find myself thinking it’s a good thing you are blessed with the lovely, quiet, seemingly well-behaved little granddaughter you seem to have, because I suspect if there were any hints of issues, you wouldn’t be able to handle it. It would probably surprise you to know how lucky and blessed I think I am. Wherever you are, oh grandmother, I hope you know how lucky and blessed you are.