Friday, June 13, 2008

On Lookout

He didn't notice her. She had hid herself out of his view. Her very presence annoyed me. We are in ths Pittsburg Mills Mall having lunch at Johnny Rockets. It's early Wednesday afteroon and we had arrived at our hotel in Butler with loads of time on our hands. This mall had a store we were looking for (Brookstones) so we decided to drive the nearly thirty miles to have lunch, shop and then meander back to the hotel.

We love Johnny Rockets, a burger joint that offers vegetarian options on all their burgers, and we always look for it when we are travelling. There is an elderly woman in the wheelchair blocking the entrance way so we have to scoot around the side of another table, moving all sorts of chairs. She doesn't notice and we don't mind, she is deep in friendship with the other woman and they talk, gossip and laugh through their entire lunch. I'm not sure that they were aware that there was a world outside thier relationship at that moment.

They set up Johnny Rockets to have a place where take out orders and be made or picked up. A young man, maybe 13 or 14 is nervously approaching the counter. When he gets closer we can see that he has Down Syndrome and he is entirely focused on getting to the counter an placing his order. A bright young thing of a waitress approaches him and saks 'what are you having honey'. His face screws up at the word 'honey' but he proceeds to order. He begins with ordering a vanilla shake, she asks him 'what size' and he's momentarily confused. She shows him the two sizes and he picks the bigger one. Then he orders fries. 'Do you want a burger?' 'No, nothing else."

A pretty normal exchange except that his mother was hiding behind him, watching. When he finsihed his order she had returned to a table in the food court where she was talking and laughing with friends. I made a snide comment to Joe about her stalking her own son. He looked at me surprised and said, "Weren't you watching her?" I admitted I had not, I was watching the boy. "She wasn't watching him, she was watching the staff, once she saw that they were going to treat him ok, she left. She trusted him, it was the waitstaff she didn't trust."

OK, Mom, I'm sorry - we live in a world where trusting others is a real issue.

But at least you can trust your son.

But now he needs to learn to watch others as carefully as you do. Because ultimately, that's his job.


Anonymous said...

You are in my neck of the woods. I don't live up north anymore but it's fun to read your blog and be familiar with the places that you mention. Oh, and I can so see me stalking my grandson when he gets older to make sure that he's treated right. What will I do if he isn't?

gracie1956 said...

I so identify with that mother. I have done that exact thing so many times. My letting go of my motherly duties of protection has/is a very long process. Yes, I know she must make her way in the world because I won't live forever. Beside the fact that I really do want her to have a full life, it is just good parenting to prepare your child for a life apart from under Moms' wing. Having said all that I still struggle daily with the fact that the world may be unkind to her and it breaks my heart to think of it.

Kei said...

Ah, the duties of a parent. I have done that with my older kids at one time or another; I have yet had the opportunity to do that with William.

Merrygirl said...

Don't be hard on that Mom, I've done it many times in the (slow) process of helping my daughter be independent. Of course, up here in Canada, it's Timmys! Sounds like a wonderful interaction to me and both Mom, kid and server did fine! Something tells me (although who can really know?) that the server probably calls everyone honey!

Dustin said...

Hi Dave,

I'm exhausted and excited after having the opportunity to listen to you these past two days in Butler. Feel free to come back anytime; I'll be there!

We have excitedly spent the breaks and lunches anxious to get back to our offices and start integrating what we've learned, while wishing that we had even longer to discuss things. I purchased and had autographed three books yesterday, and have already finished Real Eyes. Even thinking that our person-directed approach is evolved, I see that we, and the whole system, is still prehistoric, and am excited to make the needed changes. I think the room was full of like minds.

I hope you enjoyed the Mills, which is just uphill from my house. Have a safe trip back, and don't be too long before you return!

Thank you.

Heike said...

Well Dave, it sometimes takes our kids a bit longer to learn something, and as you well know, it takes society much much longer still. So i think i would be a bad parent if i didn't keep an eye out over my kids. Mine are young still (oldest only 7) but i always keep a weary eye when he goes off on his own, and i expect that to stay so for a while. We have little choice - there are lots of creeps out there who pry on the more vulnerable, and lots of rude rude people who say hurtful things to those different.

The main thing seems to me that the mother did her job perfectly. She watched the staff but did so in a way that her son did not notice, thus leaving him to do his own thing. She seems the sensible yet understanding kind of mom. I just wish all kids had one of those (including the kids at the bookstore in your previous post) disabled or not.

shiva said...

Hmmm. I still think that's still pretty creepy of the mother. I mean, what if he'd turned round because of a noise or something, and seen her watching him? Would she have been able to explain to him that it wasn't him that she was watching?

Odd question: is Down's a lot more common in Canada than it is in the UK (in terms of lower selective abortion rates, perhaps, as i know that in the UK 90% of fetuses prenatally diagnosed with Down's are aborted)? Because you seem to encounter people with DS practically everywhere you go, on a near daily basis, even when you're not doing anything to do with your work, and while it's probably still one of the commoner easily-noticeable impairments in the UK, i don't see people with it anywhere near that often (or visibly disabled people more generally, TBH, which in the second biggest city in the UK kind of surprises me)...

Lisa b said...

Dave I love these stories. I hope my daughter has the opportunity to learn how to watch the world.
I am so worried and you give me hope.

Ettina said...

Maybe UK is less inclusive to disabled people?

rickismom said...

Dave, who in the world do we teach our child to be COMPETANTLY independent if we don't follow and watch how they handle the situation?
For example, After I had thoroughly trained Ricki how to cross streets, and we had discussed often the need not to talk to strangers, I started letting Ricki walk the last ten minutes of her 20 minute walk to school alone. She had only 2 small streets to cross, and the streets are full of girls, making it safer. I followed at a distance, to check how it went. I saw that she dawdelleda long time at a photo store, which meant that she was finishing her walk after school began, and the streets were empty....a much more dangerous situation.
So (weithout telling her I followed her, we talked about the need to go "straight". The problem self-corrected, and after a few times following her, I was much more confident. Than a month later the school guard asked the aide to tell me that Ricki was always crossing the street at the school, where there is no crossing. This puzzeled me, as she should be on the side of the street as the school! I followed her, and discovered that she was crossing the street unnecessarily and then recrossing at the gates.
I told her that someone told me that she crossed the street and explained why this was dangerous.

There are SO many dangers lurking, and there are SO many things a child needs to learn in order to truly be confident. There are few ways of knowing what problems are arising if we do not, on occaision, follow. So many parents take the "easy" course of limiting their children. If a parent is encouraging independence, they may need to "spy". Amoung otgher worries, if something happens to the child, even if he is not seriously hurt, they will have social services breathing down their necks as being irresponsible parents". Keep in mind, he was 13 or 14, not 20. Rest assured, they won't do it when not needed: its too hard.