A few weeks ago, Shaun's Cub Scouts Pack held their annual Pinewood Derby!
It was his first time participating and the excitement was high in our household! Right away, Shaun and Daddy set out to figure out how to make the absolute best derby car they could. They searched Google, studies YouTube and came up with the perfect car design to get the most speed. Shaun then came up with his own idea of how he wanted it to look- a Wii Remote with 'Wii-n' in place of Wii! Clever, right?
Next came the actually building! They bought their tools and went right to work! Shaun even used the handsaw to help with the sawing (you can imagine this mama's fear!). They sawed, they sanded, they painted...and at the end they added the weights to give it the most speed. Shaun was ready to race!
Now, to be honest, we really didn't expect to win much of anything this year. We'd switched packs in the middle of race preparations, leaving us behind anyway, and honestly none of us had any experience with the Pinewood Derby at all! So, we prepared Shaun for the chance that he might not win and that this would be okay.
And then the results came in and Shaun discovered he had placed third...just .002 seconds behind second! Amazing! He was thrilled! He'd done it, he'd placed...his very first time! It should have been a fantastic moment, and it was...up until the second the third place ribbon was placed in his hand. Only first and second received trophies. Just like that his hopes were shattered and he broke into full on 'bang-your-head-into-the-wall' meltdown mode. It was awful.
And that's just what happened on this day. With each race and each win, Shaun excitement grew and grew. Add in a hectic social situation with loads of noise and excitement, and it was no surprise that he was in overdrive. And when the mood is good, that's not a bad thing. The problem with autism is, it doesn't always take much in those heightened states to bring it all down. The moment something happens that is unexpected or out of the norm it can quickly come crashing down. So, on this day when Shaun realized he was not getting the trophy he was so sure he'd receive, he lost it. We've all been there right? When we're so close to something and watch it slip by...oh the disappointment we feel. Again, with autism, those feelings are amplified.
As a mother, it's absolutely devastating. No mother wants to see her child feeling hurt or overwhelmed, especially to the point of hurting themselves. And in the midst of all the chaos, we face the judgement- those disapproving looks from people who are quick to see-not a child who is struggling- but a child who is throwing a fit because they didn't get their way. That unnecessary judgement makes an already stressful situation even more stressful. (I will add that on this instance I did receive some support from a few who knew Shaun's situation, but again being new to the pack, this was the first many had seen him.)
So, why am I sharing this story?
To show that you never know what is truly going on in someone's life. Honestly, how many of us have seen a child misbehaving and thought negatively of them or their parents? Sure, sometimes kids truly are being rotten or throwing a fit because they didn't get their way...but we cannot know that simply by the little bit we are allowed to see. So, next time you see a child crying and screaming when out and about, stop and think for a moment before you judge. Instead of automatically assuming that this child must be giving his mother a hard time, consider instead that he may be having a hard time himself.