You know, life happens. And sometimes you wonder if you're being a little selfish about it. I had two moments today with that oddish feeling that the world is staring at me, and perhaps I was feeling a bit selfish about it.
This morning, we chugged through our routine- take Dad to work because we're down to one working car, get Joey bundled off to ESY, take Andy to his beloved nature camp. I signed Andy up for three sessions of said camp, and last week folks looked surprised and explained that it was the exact same camp. That doesn't bother us. In fact, that's a good thing for us, because then Andy knows what to expect. And he's superlatively happy at the camp. He was so happy, he put on his camp t-shirt proudly to go to camp, chattering happily about playing in the creek and which footprint cast he was going to make this week.
This morning, we had a different set of ladies running said camp than we have had for the last two sessions. This time, the lady comes down the walk, calling "Are you Andy's mom?" Startled, I responded to the affirmative; and was promptly treated to a lecture about how the director of summer activities had been trying to call us all weekend and we were not supposed to sign up for more than one session because there was a waiting list and other kids didn't get a chance to come to the camp at all and...
... and I took Andy's hand, turned to the car, with a comment to the effect of, "Well, we certainly do not want to be someplace we are not welcome." It was not the gracious thing to say; saying nothing would probably have been far better. We went down to the parks and rec office and pulled Andy from the remaining summer activities, and demanded refunds; and the ladies there were gracious (and intelligent) enough to comply immediately and without comment. There was a note there from the director of summer activities, too, so they were kind of expecting us; probably helped. And I must say, Mama Bear is a rather large, imposing woman with a face like thunder when she is Unhappy, which probably also helped.
But the result is that Andy cannot go to his beloved camp. Now, when we got home some hours later, there was a handwritten note from the director of summer activities stuck in my door with some nonsense about how she wanted to just refund the first day and he was welcome to go the rest of the week, but I have no interest in leaving my child with that lady who felt it appropriate to berate me in front of not only my own child, but the other parents and children who were arriving for the camp. It was not only mortifying, but I have a few questions about judgment, there. And how will these people feel about my child now? No, I'm not taking a chance on that. Camp Andy shall be hastily gathered together and implemented. It shall involve fun things like wading in Grandma's river, going to the Bug Box (which we did today), and making bean mosaics (I happened to pick up some beans on the reduced rack just last week for the purpose of making mosaics...) If I am feeling really chipper, I might even get out stuff to make chocolate mold casts (I don't have footprint molds, but I have plenty of rabbits and Santas!). Maybe we'll use plaster- or maybe we'll use chocolate. ;) And next week? JoeyAndy Camp commences! I am considering a trip to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, as a replacement for "Under the Sea" and a prelude to our week at the beach.
Such were my cranking gears and thoughts as Joey came home and it was time for lunch. I decided to take them to their favorite Monday restaurant (it serves mac and cheese on Mondays, so Joey is all about it; and Andy likes the toy machines, where he can get mini glow sticks for a quarter). It's a lovely little place, very homey, been going there since I was a nipper myself. It has all-you-can-eat veggies and salad and stuff, and AYCE ice cream in the bargain, so I usually have happy boys getting their own food and feeling that modicum of control over their lives that young boys like.
But today, I accidentally spilled my drink onto one of Joey's Zhu Zhu Pets (the pet is fine, all dry, no worries). Joey has been very out-of-sorts this summer. I don't think he's doing that well with his ESY program- too many kids and too many field trips, not enough normalcy and routine that he needs- and the insanity of summer just gets to him. He gets a little hair-triggery, and this didn't even need a hair trigger, it was a perfectly obvious trigger. He did a lap around the restaurant, screaming "He's ruined! My Zhu Zhu Pet is ruined!" at the top of his lungs.
The moment of deafening silence in the restaurant as I caught the upset child and hugged him nearly broke my heart. So often, we are mostly invisible in public, and especially in familiar settings such as this restaurant. He had been overwhelmed by an avalanche of small things: a morning at busy ESY, the hub-bub of the public space with his growing sound sensitivity, the fact that we left immediately for lunch, so he didn't get his few minutes of computer time, Andy demanding his attention and barraging him with questions and instructions for playing, and then the drink spilled upon his beloved toy... and these are the things I can immediately report.
"You're OK," I said to calm him, "Look, I have the Zhu Zhu all dry, its OK, I am so sorry. You're OK."
"She says that kid is OK," I heard the lady in the next booth say quite clearly, "but clearly he's not OK." Perhaps I am a little sensitive or paranoid, but the way this was said, and the fact that she was speaking to the person next to her, yet looking straight at us, I'm sure this was meant for us. The waitress thought so, too, because she said something I didn't catch, very quietly, to the lady. I decided to simply ignore it at the moment, and get Joey to his seat and finishing his lunch. Our waitress fussed over him a little, making sure his drink was filled, asking if he needed anything, directing her attention to him, which also distracted him and got him re-settled.
We went out to see my mom after, and the boys were raising a rumpus (did I mention they are a little out of sorts?), and I told her about it, including the moment of silence. She immediately changed the subject. Again, talking about it in front of him was not a moment of good grace. So what if I felt all those eyes upon us? Life isn't all about me; the important thing is to get Joey calm and help him cope with being overwhelmed. How does he feel to hear his mommy talk about a moment he, too, may have found embarrassing?
I wish I could now write a paragraph as I did about Andy's situation, with all the creative and constructive things I will be doing to make this right. But I just don't see a lot I can do to make embarrassing my child in front of his grandmother right. We will talk about it some, I will ask the OT what I can do, we will try to assess situations faster and avoid the overwhelm better. And talking about my own feelings of such moments with mom? I'll wait until he's in bed asleep. It will keep (and if it doesn't, perhaps that's for the best, too).