Let me tell you a little story about the day I lost my parental shit…
It was the year my special needs daughter was turning 18, in my home state of Virginia that means that I had to obtain Guardianship for her. This seemingly mandatory procedure involved two attorneys, a hearing before a highly disinterested Judge and a few thousand dollars. It’s kinda like the fabulous sweet 16 party that my friends all seemed to be throwing for their girls except that there was no cake and I sat in my car and cried for about an hour. The Guardianship hearing was no fun however, that was not the bad thing that happened that month…
It was the month that one of my daughter’s amazing teachers scheduled a REAL field trip for her special education class. Not just a trip to the zoo or to the circus but a trip to The White House. It was the type of school trip you talk about, they type that you plan an outfit for. I was thrilled to take photos and happy that a teacher had taken the time and made the extra effort to arrange a visit through our local congressperson. None of this is bad yet….
The bad part of this story is that the trip never happened. No outfit, no photos. The school’s principal cancelled the trip 48 hours before we were scheduled to go. Ok, dissappointment is my constant companion but there just had to be a logical explaination, right? But no explaniation, just an envelope with the returned bus fare and a “sorry, the trip has been cancelled”. I was concerned and curious so I called to ask why and was told that the trip was “not educationally necessary” to my daughter’s class. This is where I lose my shit.
No matter that my daughter had actually been studying the branches of government, forget that she and her classmates had been planning this trip and were excited to go. The real issue was that these kids were being kept from the outside world as if they didn’t exist. Keep walking world, nothing to see here.
I begged and pleaded with the Principal—was it the money? Did she need more volunteers? Nope. Just not important for my kid to take the trip that most kids around here do in the 6th grade. “How can we, as advocates for kids with disabilities and ask our government to support our kids when they never get to see them? Aren’t these the kids who will be at the mercy of federal legislation for their very survival?” Silly, mom. I assumed the principal was an advocate and I was wrong.
Fuck that. We went without anyone else in the class.
My daughter was just about as unimpressed with the White House as most 6th graders are. But this trip wasn’t just about her, it wasn’t to instill a love of the red room (which I totally loved, by the way) it was so she could be seen by the mass of humanity who parade into our President’s house every day like they own the place. We are here, we deserve to be here just as much as any other citizen.
This event happened in 2012 and I’m still super pissed. I’ve spoke twice to our local school board about it, I’ll never stop talking about it. I’ve never experienced a bigger slight from a person in power, it was degrading and humiliating.
Needless to say, this story about special needs high school students being shooed away from a Bath and Body Works store at a Missouri Mall really, really pissed me off It’s one thing to do battle with school administrators, it’s something parents of special needs kids do every day but store clerks?! AW HELL no!
Let me explain a little something about Capitalism to you, Bath and Body Jerks: We get to say no to you, you don’t get to say no to us.
And these particular retail people had the chance to be heroes…to give a smile, treat people with dignity and get a rare and unanticipated warm fuzzy but they chose to be total dicks. The truly stupid part of all of this is their willful lack of understanding of the marketplace. I’m going to bet that some of these kids had autism and, let me tell you, there is no more loyal audience than an autistic person with an obsession. Your loss, mall scumbags, your loss.
I have enough trouble explaining to people why food stamp legislation matters to my daughter or why Medicaid expansion matters to her day to day life. And I really do have to be her advocate because she has the functional communication of a two year old so even if you have a handful of fruit loops, she probably isn’t going to be interested in discussing domestic policy with you. I’m not dissing my kid, she just has different priorities.
Occasionally I run into someone who doesn’t understand why my daughter needs an aide to take her to the YMCA—She has problems processing verbal information so it’s unsafe to let her travel alone.
Or why my daughter wears variations of the same exact outfit everyday–– She likes consistency in her fabrics because of her sensory processing disorders.
Or why my daughter doesn’t have normal peer relationships—She doesn’t have the same need for constant validation that most people do.
So I’m used to explaining why my daughter behaves differently or more specifically why I believe that she behaves differently but I’ve never had to explain any of this to they myriad of merchants at MacArthur Center Mall in Norfolk which is lucky for me because it’s my daughter’s favorite place on earth.
She loves the mall. The continuity, the temperature control, the food court. It’s her nirvana. It’s the one place where she can have interaction with people in a structured environment and have clean, safe bathrooms close at hand. (Seriously, the bathrooms at MacArthur Mall are very, very clean. I don’t know how they do it.)
The merchants tolerate my daughter’s odd behaviors and strange affectations because she does spend some cash there and frankly she’s not nearly as annoying as the regular gaggle of weird ass teens at the mall.
SO to all of the lovely executives and employees of the Bath and Body Works: I’ll be patient with your teenager at the Apple store when they are blocking the isle and taking selfies and being oblivious to the other people in the store. I’ll wait politely as your 15 year old daughter lingers at the top of the escelator as she looks for her friends and then screams at the top of her lungs when she sees them. And when your son shuffels through the mall checking his phone instead of looking up, I’ll forvive him because I know he’s trying to see where the game stop is (but there IS a directory right in front of his face). I know that the lives of your social children are very complicated and require lots of time and patience to wade through. I understand that. I really do.
I’m only asking that if the ONE time my kid gets to go out with his class to experience what every other kid experiences on a pretty regular basis you let them pass. It’s not too much to ask.