Dear Mom at Tijuana Flats

Dear Mom at Tijuana Flats,

I’ve stared at this blinking cursor for about 20 minutes now. I’m surprised at how hard it is to find the words I want to share with you. Maybe that’s why I froze up yesterday when everything in me wanted to go to you.

We were there when you came in with your beautiful boy to pick up your take-out. We were there when he began to be loud. Honestly, it took a few screams for me to even notice. I’ve gotten so good at tuning out when it’s not my own kids making the noise. And believe me. They did.

It wasn’t that long ago that I found myself in situations just like yesterday. I became convinced that our pictures were posted on the wall of the security office in Target after all the “walks of shame” that took place there. When I would have to carry my 4- or 5-year-old son from the very back of the store all the way to the parking lot, with him kicking and screaming when it just got to be too much for him.

I got to be an expert at avoiding eye contact with others during those moments that seemed to last for an eternity. I had seen the stares before. The eye rolls. I was already feeling like a terrible mom. I didn’t need to see the looks or hear the whispers to confirm it. The only looks that might be worse than the judgements would be the looks of sympathy. At least with the eye rolls, I would be able to make it to the car before crying. With the looks of solidarity and sympathy, I would break down on the spot.

So when I saw my not-so-distant past being played out in your present, I didn’t know what to do or say. I wanted to help somehow. To make it better. To let you know that you are NOT alone.

But I froze. I was terrified of making it worse for you. My fear held me in my seat. I tried to catch your eye, but I could see that you’re also very practiced in eye contact avoidance. I get it.

And maybe that’s what I mostly want you to know. I get it. I’ve been there.

I sat there next to my almost 9-year-old son who I had carried kicking and screaming from stores and restaurants because he couldn’t explain to me that the lights and colors and sounds were too much for him. My husband caught my eye across the table and my eyes filled with tears.

Even though we still have our occasional moments, we’ve come so far.

But not so far that we’ve forgotten what it’s like.

I have no idea if your son is on the spectrum or if he was just having a rough time. Either way…

You are not alone, sweet mama. Your beautiful boy is not alone, either.

I know how hard it can be and I want to tell you that you’re doing a great job.

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