Sunday, December 9, 2012

Heartache at the Christmas Train

     We wanted to surprise Tristen this year and take him to the holiday train that passes through our town once a year.  Those of you reading this who don't have autistic kids might wonder how standing out in the snow waiting for a train to come and stop so a band can sing Christmas songs while Santa wanders throughout the crowd would be exciting to a boy turning 15 in three months.  Those of you who do have a kid on the spectrum, are probably wondering how we managed to keep from ever taking him until now.
  Well the stars aligned and we were able to take him tonight. He was excited beyond belief.  Not only to be that close to a train, see the cars, the passengers....... and hearing the whistle blow would have been enough.  But it was a CHRISTMAS train, with SANTA and lights and music that he LIKED.  He was dancing in the snow in the middle of the crowd.... to the slight embarrassment of his brother, mind you, but we were all equally happy to see him so happy.  As the band played on, he started to notice the packed ice under his was our first real snow-fall of the season and Tristen gets mesmerized by it.  He was scuffing his feet ever so gently to even out the packed snow and I noticed a piece fly up just the height of a little boy, maybe two or three years old, who was watching him.  The mother noticed this piece of snow just as I did and gave an angry disgusted glare.  I quickly explained to Tristen to look at the people around him because he was getting snow in the little boy's face.  He immediately jumped and stopped and said, "I'm sorry!"  He tried to step toward the family and tell them he was sorry, he didn't mean to, but the mother scooped her children up and turned her back to us in one swift motion.  Josh and I moved Tristen in between us.....his eyes started to well up.
 "I feel bad, Mom."
 "I know you do sweetie.  I know it was an accident.  We are not mad at you.  Just look around you next time, ok? "
"I never kick snow again."
"I know.  It's ok"
It broke my heart.  He couldn't even apologize.  Granted, it would be hard to tell, out in the middle of a snowy evening in a crowd of people that this kid had special needs. Even if I had an autism pass-out card to give wouldn't have mattered because she obviously did not want an explanation. Despite the fact this person was out to celebrate Christmas with her children, she obviously did not know the meaning behind the holiday.
 It makes me so sad to think that this is the world I brought my children into.  We are too busy and wrapped up in our own lives to even give a 3 second  "it's ok" ....even if you don't really mean it.  Why are people so uncaring and unkind?  It's CHRISTMAS for heaven's sake!
I want to protect him from this world.  I want to keep him close at all times.  But I know I can't if I want him to learn and grow.  And it breaks my heart to think of people treating him that way.  I know this experience could have been worse.  The stranger could have yelled at him.  There could have been a big scene.  It makes me afraid for him everyday when I see the absence of humanity in our world.
I have a bit of hope when I go to work each day.  I pray the 4th and 5th graders who are so awesome to the special kids at their school grow up and in adulthood remember that feeling of kindness and charity, so that their generation of special needs kids will have the chance to enjoy life and public events without the fear of being ridiculed and misunderstood.  That is my Christmas wish.