A few days ago, when we were coming back from a walk, a woman was walking past our gate when she stopped and gestured to me to come over. She told me that she had been driving past the house a few days ago when my little boy was out on the road, waving and standing in front of her car when she was driving. I was surprised, as I couldn't even think when that might have happened and explained that he's autistic. She told me she already knew, she'd spoken to his Granda previously (my Dad knows my neighbours better than I do!). She said that she saw him run back to the house, so I suppose she felt it was safe enough to leave him then and not inform me at the time.
As she was talking, Duncan came out again in his bare feet. I asked him to go get some shoes, and he pointed at her and said 'Go away!' Lady was around and she said, 'he's saying that to Mummy because he wants her to get him something.' She was obviously trying to prevent the woman from feeling bad, but Duncan came right up to us, looked straight at the woman and told her 'Go away woman', so there was no mistaking his meaning. I apologised in a sort of general way, and she looked pityingly at me and said that it must be very hard on me. I was well flustered by then (thinking about what might have happened to Duncan that day, wondering how it happened etc.) that I was only able to mumble something about him being a great boy, but one with limited understanding at times.
I soon figured that it must have happened the day the cavity wall insulation and loft insulation were installed. The men kept coming and going and leaving the front door open. I kept Duncan engaged with stories and as many little 3d pictures of trains as he wanted. But I had to go upstairs for a moment, and Lady came up to tell me that Duncan had gone outside and was climbing up the ladder. I ran down and brought him back inside straight away, but the road incident must have happened just before that.
Thankfully we live on a very quiet road; only vehicles going to the houses on the street need come down it.
As I've thought about this several times in the days since, I get a shiver of fear for what might have been. Aren't children great at doing that to you? I also can't help thinking that if I'd been in her position, and I saw a young child I knew was autistic (and therefore developmentally delayed) out on the road, I'd get out of the car and make sure he got home and tell his parent about it at the same time. Perhaps I'm trying to offload some of my own guilt onto her though.
But I just can't forget the pity thing either. I know it's harder raising a child like Duncan than children like Lady and Thomas. But I don't know if people realise when they say that, how it upsets me to see him singled out as a source of pity for his mother. He is my son, and brings me more joy than I can express. What's to pity?