Monday, August 03, 2009

Zero Tolerance Society

My trip with Dominyk was very eye-opening for me. I learned that in our society, parents are supposed to keep children quiet period. Any deviation from that and it suddenly gives the person standing there permission to correct the child. And the inference is that it is a parenting issue.

Dominyk was loud. He was annoying. He could not be quiet. He obsessed about interesting things (being claustrophobic and unable to "take it any longer" on the plane, for example. "Mom, you have to talk to the pilot NOW. He has to stop the plane. I can't take it for one more minute." As you can imagine, I was feeling equally unable to take it.

The shuttle ride home was nearly impossible. He was repeating things over and over again and the driver was right in front of us. I am surprised he didn't pull over and run over to the side of the road and pull out his remaining hair.

The problem is that Dominyk's disabilities are hidden. He looks like a "normal" 13 year old. But he's not. And it is very hard for me not to get really frustrated when someone leans over to him and says, "You can't talk to your mother like that. Didn't she teach you better?" To me, it is just like someone walking up to someone in a wheelchair and saying, "Why can't you walk? Didn't your parents ever teach you to walk when you were a baby?"

I guess it's a wake up call to me as I tend to internally be judgmental. Maybe a situation that I see -- the tip of the iceberg -- isn't the whole story. Maybe the woman who I see scolding her husband in public is beaten when they are alone. Maybe the overbearing guy in the next booth is being treated unfairly at work.

We all have a story within our story.

But we have become a zero tolerance society. And it makes me sad. Because inside none of us fit into a mold that is getting smaller all the time and yet we have to try. And as adoptive families we are clinging desperately to one another because we are with folks who understand.

Lord, help me to not be a "zero tolerance" person just because I live in a society where tolerance and diversity are practiced only in theory.


FAScinated said...


Miz Kizzle said...

I suppose some people might see that as a teaching moment when they can clue some stranger in on kids with hidden disabilities.
Other less saintly folks would tell the busybody to mind her own damn business.

Lee said...

I so relate to this. My 23 y/o with Aspergers and other issues is like this. Loud, unable to read social cues. Unable to handle waiting, low frustration tolerance. space issues. When we have had to be on a plane with him he is also anxious so everything is up 2 or 3 notches. And although I am trying to look and project calm I am always worried someone is going to assume my asian indian son is a terrorist because his actions are outside the norm and we live in a society that is so often fueled by fears and misunderstandings. Though I hate labels, I have been known in such settings to say to him just loud enough for someone else to hear, "Chet, because of your autism you don't understand x y or z but people who process differently from you are upset when you (fill in the blank.) Or sometimes, "having a disability doesn't mean you get to act without thinking about others. We just have to try harder together to make this work without bothering others. Usually, Doesn't help his behavior a whit but I think it has prevented the annoying "helpful" interventions by others.

debbie said...

yes, yes, and yes. all of what you said. yes.

Tiruba said...

It is all about perspective. When I go out, I assume that every kid has special needs unless they are quiet, LOL.

Life's Mom said...

My almost adopted daughter "Life" is 9 years old and quite beautiful - all of her disabilities are quite hidden. My 16 yo healthy daughter has taken on the role as her "stylist" - so Life always has super cute hair styles, trendy (usually hand me downs from wealthy friends) clothes, etc. Then Life will do something really socially inappropriate (like stick her finger up her nose to the second knuckle!) You just wouldn't believe the stares we get.

A few months ago we were all on a very long flight with a layover. During our first flight, I had to give Life her ADHD meds before lunch, so at our layover - which would be our only opportunity to eat - she was not hungry AT ALL. So I ordered for her and just kept spoon feeding her bites as the rest of our family ate. According to my older daughter, someone behind me was appalled at my over-mothering Life and they spent their entire lunch talking about us. Fortunately my other daughter thought it was hysterical, but yes some people just do not have any idea. We do whatever we have to do. I would not want to be on that long flight when Life decided she was now hungry and there was no lunch being served!

Linda up north said...

Yep.. isn't that the truth. Walk a mile in my/his/her/their shoes, eh?

Kat said...

I am guilty of correcting other people's kids in public at times. However, if I do that, it's generally not because I am being judgmental about the parenting - then I'm usually quiet unless it's a safety issue or potential damange to me or mine - but more a case of thinking the parent looks worn down and maybe the kid will listen to a stranger who says "stop that."

Claudia said...

Good Point, Kat. I hadn't thought of that.

Of course, with some of my kids, it wouldn't matter at all who corrected them. Yet, they haven't met you, have they? ;-)