From the time I was little, I remember people using the term, “I saw red,” meaning they were extremely angry about something, but I’d never experienced it myself.  I saw a friend go through it once.  We worked in a doctor’s office together.  After checking in half a day’s schedule of patients, and making excuses for a very late doctor, she called the main office to find out that no one told her the doctor was still on vacation and wouldn’t be back till the next day.  I saw the look on her face.  If she were a cartoon, steam would have shot out of her ears.  I knew that day what “seeing red” meant: that black cloud that fell over her face.  But I never experienced it first hand, until after my daughter was born.

As a parent of a special needs child, you get used to comments on your parenting and unsolicited advice.  You endure the well-intentioned friends who suggest a medication or a school that would be “better” for your child.  You smile and nod your head at the people in the store who tell you what you should do about problem “a” or problem “b” with your child.  You bear with the clueless hospital staff that tells you to do what you’ve done, or try something you just explained you have tried.  And you grit your teeth and bear what the “Schmuck” says about you to others.  Maybe you don’t want to make a commotion, or be rude.  Or maybe you don’t want to upset other people who are not at fault.   Or maybe you’ll actually file away some of the meaningless gobblety-gook they serve up for a later doctor discussion.  But, there may be times when holding your tongue is not what you should do.

Today’s story is about the Schmuck and the first time I “saw red”.  Let me set the scene.  We were at a mutual friend’s party, it was a cold October day, and the party was in the garage.  My children were with me.  I don’t remember if my husband was there.  If he was, he was off with the men-folk somewhere talking about power tools and landscaping, and not getting blamed for anything.  My daughter, a few months old, wearing a heavy snow suit, a heavy blanket, and parked in her stroller by two powerful space heaters (no not close enough for danger, but close enough to be in the warmest spot in the garage), was within my sight, and being checked regularly (read every 5 minutes), to see if her hands and face were warm, but not too warm.  I had to go to the bathroom (when you gotta go, you gotta go), and I felt bad leaving her alone for even those 10 minutes (I had other Moms I was sitting with watch her while I was gone).  I was coming back down the stairs when I heard the Schmuck say to some new parents, who on arrival brought their baby in the house, something about a baby who was sickly.  I felt bad for those parents, I even thought about saying a prayer for the family.  Then I realized it was my daughter he was talking about.  He ranted for a few minutes about how I was doing all sorts of wrong things, and then concluded with, “Some people really shouldn’t be parents.”

Tears sprang to my eyes, but didn’t come out because that’s when I literally “saw red”.  Yes, it really happened.  I was stunned, insulted, and just downright outraged.  I said nothing to the Schmuck.  I don’t think he even knew I was in the house.  I walked out the door, and back to my daughter.  It was a different time.  I was just getting my footing as a special needs parent.  There is no rule book.  There are no guidelines.  No two special needs parents arrive at the same place at the same time.  Special needs parents will understand this…  there are many towns in Holland, and some are closer to the border.  I am now smack in the middle of that beloved tulip-filled country. Back when I had my run-in with the Schmuck, I was as close to the border as I could be and still trying to find my ticket to Italy.

If I were to hear a comment like this now I would have schooled the Schmuck.  First of all, my daughter was being well-cared for as evidenced by my behaviors listed above.  Second of all, my daughter was not sick.  She had a birth defect which caused developmental delays.  Read again, NOT SICK.  Or sickly, whatever that means.  Third, there were a bunch of pre-teen girls at the party who looked at my daughter like she was a doll.  Should I have left her in the house with them?  Fourth, I have another child, who was in the yard off the garage with other children.  Should I have left him outside, unattended?  Or should I have made him sit in the house, too?  Should we all have stayed in the house alone?  What’s the point in coming to the party in the first place then?  How selfish of me, I was starving for adult conversation.  I did, after all, give up my job to be a full-time caregiver to my special needs child, and so hadn’t talked to an adult other than doctors, therapists or my husband for months.  (It’s amazing how most people bale when you have a special child.)  How dare I take one day, with my kids in tow (and my special one within arms reach), for myself.

Yeah, I would give him an earful now.  Of course I speak fluent Dutch now, (still going with the Holland metaphor, people), and decided Italy wasn’t for me after all, (read, “Welcome to Holland”, by Emily Pearl Kingsley, if you don’t get these references – it’s an essay handed out to many new parents of special needs kids, and I wish I’d written it, it’s that brilliant).

Back then, I just held it in, wondered if I should feel bad about myself, and held a grudge.  Oh, yeah, to the “Schmuck”:  I’m still holding that grudge, that’s why I still remember this in as much detail as I do.  Of course, my husband doesn’t remember, and doesn’t get why I still don’t like this guy.  Hmmmmm.  I wonder.

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