My day began with failing a test that I actually studied for in one of my college courses. It was hard to swallow, but I told myself that it was no one else's fault but my own, that I didn't work hard enough. No one saw my tears that morning, but I did cry a little because I was so overwhelmed with the amount of work I took on going full time in college while simultaneously trying to juggle a part time job, and my kids. I felt like a failure and reminded myself that other parents do the full time school thing, and they are better at it than I am, which meant I just needed to try a little harder.
I had a meeting that ran over it's allotted time before I picked up my boys from school, so I was a few minutes late to get pick them up that day. It was a very busy day, and in that busyness, I forgot the bag that contains extra pull ups and wipes for my oldest son, Anthony. Anthony is non verbal and not fully potty trained yet. At the time of this story, about two years ago, he wasn't potty trained at all.
I did remember to get them something to snack on before we went because I didn't know if the appointment would cut into our dinner time. On the 15 minute drive to the doctor's office, one of my kids accidentally dumped an entire cup of sprite on the floor of my car. I rarely let them drink soda and, of course, on one of the days that I do, it gets dumped in full onto my black car upholstery in the middle of a hot day in May.
I told myself that I had to let it go. That it was my fault for letting them have the soda to begin with, and that I could clean it up whenever I got home. I pulled into the parking lot of the doctor's office, dusted the french fries off their shirts and walked them in.
We waited a while to go back, longer than usual. I was hoping it would go quicker so there was less chance of Anthony going to the bathroom while we were there. Once we got back to the exam room we waited again to see doctor longer than we normally do. During this wait, I got a text from their Dad, and in the 10 seconds it took me to reply, my oldest son popped a squat in the corner of the room.
When he crouches, he's going poo, and he's taught himself to go fast because we catch him in the middle of squatting and put him on the potty where he refuses to go poop. I stood him up and told him "No, please wait just a minute. We need to see the doctor and Mom forgot your bathroom stuff!" It was too late. I checked his pants, he had already gone a little, and it wreaked to high heaven.
I popped my head out the door and asked a nurse if they had anything I could change him with. She told me they had diapers for babies, but nothing for bigger kids. That's when it all hit me at once; the day and this moment collided and I thought;
"I can't believe I forgot his pull ups and wipes. They don't have pull ups because most kids his age are potty trained! I wish I could get him potty trained. Oh man, we have to leave. I have to reschedule. I have no choice, I have no way to clean him up. Now we have to walk through the office stinking, and I get to sit him like this in the car until we get home. It's been seven years, why did I forget his pull ups!?"
He was still having tummy issues at this point too, so this was no regular poo. It was messy and not something you can clean up easily. At this point I was emotionally done from the day and leaving seemed like the best option. Just removing him from the situation as quickly as possible so I could get him properly cleaned up.
I stopped at the front desk for a second, or what I wanted to be just a second, in order to tell them that we had to leave. The receptionist was finishing up a phone call, and as I stood there waiting, another family came up behind us to stand in line. I knew there was no way they couldn't smell the poo emanating from Anthony's behind. I told the receptionist that we had to leave and she acted surprised, so I then felt that I had to state why and admit that I forgot his bathroom supplies, out loud.I imagined a cascade of judgement coming from every parent in the room. She was very kind, told me it was no problem and said that I could reschedule whenever.
I remember doing my best to hold back angry tears while I was talking to her. I was angry with myself for a lot of things that day. I felt like a failure.
I looked down at Anthony while walking him out of the office and thought about how much I loved him. How much I wish I would have remembered his pull ups so he wouldn't have to walk through the office like this. The not so pleasant side of his Autism was permeating the hallways. If he could have told me that he was embarrassed, I would have died of a broken heart right then and there. Anthony was yelling and laughing loudly at this point. Now that I think back on it, it was him saying he was uncomfortable, but in the moment it seemed like he just wanted to play at a very inappropriate time. My jaws were grinding together and I held back tears while walking out of the office.
As I put the kids into the car, I told Anthony I was sorry. Another Mom who was a few spaces away putting her kids in the car began to approach me. I could see her out of the corner of my eye and I remember thinking " Oh GOD, not now! Whatever it is, I can't do it right now!"
I wasn't prepared for what she was about to say.
She walked right up to me, smiled, and said; "Hi there. I just wanted to come over and tell you that I was in the office when you were talking to the receptionist. I've been there. My oldest is on the Spectrum too and he wasn't potty trained for a long time either. I know what it's like. I just wanted to say that I see you, and that you're doing a great job. You're a great Mom."
I looked her in the eye and said the most sincere "Thank you." that I have ever muttered. It was all I could get out. I felt the tears well up. I got into my car and she gave me space. I drove off for home, and tears rolled down my cheeks for the entire 15 minutes.
She had no idea what I had been through that day, but the way she talked to me made it seem like she did. "I see you." went through my head over and over. She saw me trying. She saw me caring. She saw me. It seems like such an insignificant thing to say, but to be seen and understood in this chaotic world that I live in was the best feeling in the world. I knew I wasn't the only Mom to ever screw up, but in my attempt to keep myself motivated to do better, I was kind of telling myself that I was the only one making mistakes.
To the Mom who said " I see you." to me that day, I hope you read this. I hope you know that with that small gesture you helped me tremendously, and I still sincerely thank you for it.
To all the other Moms out there who had a rough go of it today. Those who feel like everyone else is kicking ass while they forget things and fail at everything while trying to be the best Mom that they can be to their special needs kids........I see you, too. You are not alone.