Most women have probably walked into a public restroom at some point and seen a mother with a little boy. In today’s world, it is probably not safe to send a young boy alone into the men’s restroom.
What if the boy that mother had in tow were fourteen? What if an older teen boy were in the care of a young woman, not much older than him?
What would be the reaction of others?
About a year ago I was in the public women’s restroom at the mall and saw a woman who was probably in her twenties. She was with a young man in his late teens. She was helping him wash and dry his hands. We three were the only people in the restroom at the time.
I glanced up at the teen and immediately recognized him. I know that he is autistic and has other challenges.
I felt that, if I talked to him in the mall restroom, I might create problems since he never really knew me. I smiled at the young woman. She smiled back, not appearing embarrassed or worried about what I might think.
When I listened to people share their stories for my book, one of the mothers with whom I spoke shared that it is very difficult when she takes her son to the pool because she has to take him through the women’s locker room. She says, “It stinks!” She knows that it is difficult for her son and for the girls and women in the locker room. If she wants to take her son swimming without her husband, that is her only option. He cannot be sent into the men’s restroom alone.
Some malls today have family restrooms which parents of young children and children with special needs can use. The benefit of family restrooms could be the topic of post of its own.
This post is not just about bathrooms, though. It is about judging.
What if I had not recognized that young man? What if I had not realized the circumstances that required him to be in the woman’s bathroom? What if I were a person with a more aggressive or snippy type of personality?
Many parents of children on the spectrum have shared with me situations in which they were judged by others. Some judgement was imposed through stares. Some judgment was delivered verbally.
People with autism do not usually carry a white cane or get around in a wheelchair. Some people call autism an invisible disability.
Some parents are told by strangers at the grocery store that they do not know how to parent. Heads shake. Tongues click.
Parents, already feeling overwhelmed, poorly equipped, and uncertain are made to feel worse. There are so many stories and so many circumstances.
Whether you are aware that someone you are judging has a special need or not, just be kind.
Is it so hard for some people to just be kind?
When have you been judged?