2 Nov 2006

Quit the pity

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?


kristina said...

Pity to those who don't have great kids like you do...... And the best of mothers.

Anonymous said...

I think he's amazing (sorry know he is!). He makes me laugh all the time and I can't wait to see all of them next month. This woman did watch him go back into the house so don't worry about it. Most people wouldn't want to get involved with other peoples kids in case they look like they're interfering. I however am happy to interfer any time, but only cause I'm allowed- its an aunts duty x

Ed said...

I imagine it would be more difficult at times, raising an autistic child. However, I think its exciting that you not only see the rewards in it, but you can write about the experiance.
I doubt that pity ever really helps anyone but as someone who benefits from getting to read what you write, I think its too bad some people dont understand.
I guess sometimes people choose pity because its conveinient. Really trying to understand takes more effort than lots of people are willing to make.
Thanks, Ed

Anonymous said...

I think pity is all people can give sometimes in a misplaced way of trying to show empathy they don't have. They only see the disability not the child for who he is.

Sharon McDaid said...

Thanks Kristina, I know you know pity is not needed.

Anonymous who really is Aunty C (see how clever I am to deduce that!), you're right about that. I know I would have got out of the car but most people wouldn't. I'm grateful that she did 'interfere' enough to let me know what happened. I'd rather know than not.
And we're all looking forward to seeing you too!

Ed, it is harder in many ways to raise Duncan because of his autism. But in some ways it's easier too. There would be issues in parenting a non-autistic 6 year old that we don't have to worry about.
But whatever, he's the boy we have and it's best not to compare him to some imaginary 'normal', especially since the joy vastly exceeds the worry.

Ruth, I agree. If I was to tell someone about a difficult incident, or something that had upset me, I would be comforted by their pity. But it bugs me no end when people assume that having a child with autism is the sole cause of most if not all of my stresses and is something to be pitied.

Ed said...

Im new to this commenting but I hope this is the right way to do this.
I think my comment was actually taken wrong. Did my describing your son as autistic or what I said come across as the very pity you were desribing you were experiancing from others? Was my describing him as autistic seem like comparing him to "normal"?
I really try to stay away from debates. I know some people like them and thats fine.Im just not any good at it.I try to say things simply because thats how I need them said to me.
If there is something I need to learn Im willing to.Youve always shown me encouragement and support and I think you deserve the same.Im sure I can learn better ways to treat everyone.Otherwise Im likly to offend you or someone else I respect worse later. That wouldnt be good for anyone.
Thanks, Ed

Sharon McDaid said...

Ed, you have not said anything wrong at all. You are so polite and respectful, I know you would not want to offend anyone. I really welcome your comments.

Mom26children said...

My youngest always takes the first opportunity to run out the door. We keep it bolted, but occasionally, one of us forgets to lock it.
We are on a fairly busy street. Luckily, at this point, I can still run faster than Kiernan.
As far as the pity, people do not realize how very lucky we are to have these children in our lives.

Sharon McDaid said...

Hi Mom26children, Duncan is fast and has a way of slipping past people unnoticed; I have to be on high alert when we're out together, and usually dress him in bright colours that I can spot easily! But so far, I am still faster than him too! (He has the makings of an athlete I'm sure.)

And yes, we're so very lucky!

Tim said...

Hi Sharon,

Tim Quinlan here. I felt I should at least pay a visit to your page after your leaving such a good, honest and personalised comment on my blog recently. I replied to your comment on my blog.

I envy you in many ways - having a husband and beautiful family around you. I'm unfortunately (or fortunately?) single and have time to think and write and read. This is where my heart goes out to you (NOT I HASTEN TO ADD IN PITY) in so far as you have so many demands on your time with family commitments. I suppose its swings and roundabouts really. We single people are lucky on one hand and so unlucky on the other - not having all the intimacy etc that is offered by family life. Your children sound gorgeous and marvellous human beings. I've been teaching for nearly 27 years now and love my job, but, boy, can youngsters be demanding and tiring. In our school we have three rather marvellous and wonderful kids - all Aspergers Syndrome. We have a small Aspergers unit. I love talking to them about their latest projects and ideas - weird and wonderful and mind-blowing. As Huxley said, taking his words from Shakespeare, "O Brave new world that has such people in't" (Miranda's speech in The Tempest from which Huxley got the title of his novel.) Unfortunately that neighbouring woman wasn't to interested in the marvellous and wonderful people of our marvellous if at times confusing world. Take care and don't let busy bodies put you off. Your children are so lucky in you and obviously in their father who love them so dearly. With respect,

Tim Quinlan.

Tim said...


I have also bookmarked your page so that I can return from time to time. Take care and look after both yourself and your wonderful family!

Sharon McDaid said...

Tim, thanks so much for your kind comments, and you'd be welcome over here ant time!