If I hadn’t been there myself I wouldn’t have believed it. My son made a stranger cry today.
My 12 year old with special needs, who struggles desperately with decision making, had a melt-down in the patriotic shirt section of Old Navy today. We spent 15 minutes going back and forth between the shirts and the register because he couldn’t pick the one he liked. Because we’re trying to get him to focus on this much-needed skill I told him that he had to make a final decision and couldn’t change his mind again – it was that shirt or NO shirt.
Of course, by the time we got to the front of the store he had decided he wanted a different one. Again.
So I took the shirt back and told him he wasn’t getting anything and that’s when the melt-down began. He doesn’t throw traditional tantrums with kicking and screaming, but with tears and thoughtful manipulation. He stood in front of the check out line with sweet, silent tears then said, “Please, mom! I will sacrifice myself for that shirt!”
By the time we got in line, his face was red and splotchy and his shirt was dotted with tears. Did I mention the line was LONG. It looked like Black Friday and we were sandwiched between people in the front and back and the racks of impulse purchases on the sides. Well played, Old Navy. Well played.
My son continued his pleas and I continued to say that he was not getting a shirt, that he has to work on decision making because if he can’t make a choice about a t-shirt, how can I trust him to make big decisions later in life, to which he replied, “I WILL make big decisions! I will be a good driver and I won’t do drugs!”
Then I got tapped on my shoulder. I turned around to see the woman behind us crying. With heartfelt sympathy for the 12 year old she probably thought was 6, she said, “He’s making me so upset.”
I nodded and said, “I know. This is hard, but I’m trying to set a precedent here.”
Then my son looked at her with his sad, tear-filled eyes and said, “Sometimes kids have a hard life.”
As we neared the register we stood next to a bin full of miscellaneous things like dog antlers, plastic Slinkies, and Beanie Babies; to one of which my son became quite attached. Since he couldn’t get the shirt he asked if he could get the Beanie Baby instead. Because I’m the meanest mom ever, I said no. The woman behind us continued to cry.
And, wouldn’t you know, that lady who was moved to tears by my kids dramatic display ended up buying him the Beanie Baby? As she handed it to him she said, “Here you go. Now maybe your life won’t be so hard.”
Though in the end he got his way and that was not what I wanted, part of me was moved by her gesture and how she was touched by this little boy and his sadness.
But, really? Couldn’t she have bought him one of those shirts?