Well into a long shopping session at Target the other day, the J-Man was doing his ‘ya-ya chant’. Try halfway laughing, then smile real big, flap your arms, and yell “ya-ya-ya!” loudly over and over again, and that’s a fair approximation of it.
His volume is often a function of how overstimulated he’s getting, not surprisingly. Noisy, busy, open shopping places – you know, like Target – certainly trigger lots of things, but we shop there so much that he’s gotten reasonably used to it. And he normally seems happy while he’s doing his chant, so no big deal.
It does get to be a bit much when he’s either really loud (my own sound sensitivities) or showing off his occasional tendency to go from quiet to 500-decibel ya-ya right when someone goes by, which scares the bejesus out of everyone, especially moms pushing a cart with a formerly-quiet baby in it. Because he still rides in the cart in the kid seat, that puts him right at ear level of the passing babies…
This particular day at Target, the Free Sample Pushers seemed to be everywhere. At the end of every other aisle, employees were handing out free tastes of every edible product you could think of. This, of course, clogs up shopping cart traffic all over the store, makes us non-samplers grumpy, and thwarts my main objective at Target – shop and get out as fast as possible.
So there we were on aisle 5, which was startlingly devoid of people since they were all trapped in the samplers’ gravity well of free cold cuts and toaster strudel on either end of the aisle. The J-Man was full on ya-ya, and I had a terrible sinus headache. I was trying to get him to hush. I had been having luck over the previous couple of aisles making growly noises and tickling him, which was good for some laughs. But he just kept going right back to ya-ya mode whenever I stopped.
I don’t know whether I looked frazzled, frustrated, or what, but a kind-looking lady who had finally cleared the Strudel Gauntlet walked over to us and said to me, “Oh, don’t you worry yourself none. He’s the most precious and most beautiful boy you could ever imagine there being.” Then she looked at him and said, “That’s right. You’re like a big bunch of sunshine. Don’t ever forget how wonderful you are!” Then she went on about her shopping. I was blown away. I don’t even know what I said in return, or if it even remotely sounded like English. In what was probably no more than 15 seconds, she blessed us with her kind, rare, and generous gift.
Perhaps she’s had some experience with other children that’s helped her see where kindness is needed. Perhaps she was ‘one of us’ because we can pick out other families with autistic kids in the store and be understanding. I don’t know, and it doesn’t particularly matter. She seemed to me like a person who would have been kind to us regardless, because I imagine that’s likely how she lives her life.
The J-Man soon enough went back to the ya-ya chant, but with my headache eased and my spirit buoyed by this anonymous woman’s kindness, he and I enjoyed each other’s company until it was time to leave and go home. If anyone stared at us or gave us looks, I never noticed.
For all of you who have been out in public and had other parents cast disparaging looks at you or say something judgmental because of something you or your child was doing, you know that what this good soul gave to us at Target was pure grace.
So in case I was too speechless to say this at Target – whoever you are, for your gift to us, I want to say thank you. I hope you have some sense of what your words and your kindness meant to me.