I took the kiddos to a birthday party yesterday without my husband. He was stuck at home with some manual labor chores and as I pulled out of the driveway he looked absolutely miserable, holding his 12 pack of imported amber ale in one hand, a large cordless power tool in the other. I tell ya, it was all I could do not to turn the car around and demand he join us for fear that his Saturday would be ruined otherwise, but when I looked back to blow him one last kiss, he had disappeared. It must have been too much for him to bear to watch us depart.
Not long after we arrived at the party, Monchichi walked by the bounce house where Superman was, along with several other kids. Suddenly, I heard someone shout, “Hey S#%*! Hey you little S#%*!” and it took only a millisecond to realize this kid was yelling at my son. My. Son. The son that can’t whip his head around and tell this joker to shut the hell up. The son that doesn’t play with the other kids because he’s not sure how, and he couldn’t possibly keep up. The son that was wandering through the yard, minding his own business, enjoying the simple things; the things we usually forget about and take for granted.
I was only a few feet from the bouncer and with my hands and heart shaking, I began to make my way over, not really knowing what I was going to do or say once I got there. But before I could charge towards the craphead that made the mistake of picking on my kid, I heard Superman’s voice, loud and clear, taking on this foul-mouthed bully. “What did you just call my brother? Did you just call my brother the “S” word? Hey! What did you just call my brother?!”
I watched as my secondborn, a skinny child of six years who still needs potty break reminders defended his big brother in front of everyone, without thinking twice about it. Without skipping a beat. Without worrying that he may have appeared uncool or would get laughed at. And I watched as the boys in the bounce house became silent, hanging their heads in brief shame for having laughed at something that was so obviously hurtful to their friend.
I made my way over to Superman, and after seeing the look of anger and shock in his eyes that someone would say something so cruel to his brother, it took all of my inner strength not to scoop my kiddos into my arms and head for the hills.
But I knew better.
I knew that the boy who said what he said does not know Monchichi. Does not know that he has autism, or that he cannot talk. He did not happen to single him out because he has special needs and that the only reason he was a target was because he was in the right place at the wrong time. This is a boy who would probably say the same thing to just about anybody else who crossed his path, and I have a feeling that he may be what you and I would call “a handful” in this industry.
I knew that maybe this was the first time someone had been so directly mean and rude to my son, but that it wasn’t goint to be the last, and that unfortunately, there will be a time when he will be picked on because of his disabilities. But we can deal with that as it comes. Each experience thickens the callouses that allow us to function as a family and rise above what may sink others.
I knew that Monchichi had not heard him, and even if he did, he would not have understood what this kid meant, and I was grateful for that. That in some ways, he is protected from truly absorbing the kinds of words that are not supposed to be used by six and seven year olds to verbally assault a peer.
And most importantly, I knew that Superman had his back. Instinctively, he went into action, and it was heartfelt and passionate and appropriate. I’ve always known that he is a special kid, hand picked by God to be the “older” younger brother to Andrew. I have often called him a hero, because he is heroic in so many ways each day, as he tries to find his place in the world, making sure not to leave his brother behind.
But I’m not gonna lie.
Seeing him in action on Saturday was pretty freaking cool.
And I let him know it.
Because I’m counting on him to remember what it felt like to hear someone be a turd to his brother.
But mostly, I’m counting on him to remember what it felt like to do something about it.