Tuesday, 21 October 2014


While we were away and staying at a caravan park something yukky happened.  I am usually a bit of a helicopter parent when it comes to Buddy but I try very hard to allow him the independence that I give to my other children when I think that it is safe to do so.
I have discovered that the trust that I place in him really affects his sense of self.  When I am overly cautious, he misbehaves a lot more.  If I allow him some freedom to move away from me and act grown up, he really rises to the occasion.  He feels good about being trusted and wants to live up to my expectations.  I find this a real juggling act because he is not capable of making complicated or clear decisions in new situations.

Buddy learns by experience (like the rest of us) but it often takes him a little longer to learn.  I find if the others learn something first go, Buddy will learn it by repetition on say the fourth (or fortieth) go. It all depends how complicated the skill or situation is for him.
Anyway, I tell you all this because staying at caravan parks is a very new experience for my children.  We don't often venture far from home and our experiences are fairly consistent each week.  With new surroundings with which I was unfamiliar, I had to make decisions about the freedom of all my children.  For example, do I let them wander over to look at the cage of birds which is very close but not in my line of view?

On this particular night, I was at the camp kitchen washing our dinner dishes when Belle and Buddy wanted to go to the toilet block.  It was directly opposite the camp kitchen.  I was unconcerned and let them head off together.
Next thing I knew, Buddy came flying out of the toilets and ran up to me looking very scared.  He was quickly followed by Belle who told me that, while she was in one of the toilet cubicles, a lady had yelled very loudly at Buddy.  Apparently he bobbed down and looked under a shower door.  I quickly explained to Buddy how inappropriate this behaviour was and I marched him back into the toilet block to apologise.  He was sooo scared but I explained that he had to!  He was to look her in the eye and say sorry in a voice loud and clear enough for her to understand.  I felt for the woman because no one expects to have their privacy violated while showering naked.

The second she came out of the shower stall Buddy apologised.  She had not yet looked at him.  I also apologised and explained to her that we don't go to caravan parks and he would just have been curious as to what was happening in the little stall.  Buddy said sorry again in an audible voice while looking directly at the young woman just as I had advised.  She then told me how distressing it was to have Buddy look under the stall when she was completely naked.
Again, I apologised and explained that he would not have realised that someone would be naked in there.  Again, Buddy very clearly said sorry.  She then asked me was he in the toilets unaccompanied.  I'm afraid I didn't handle this well.  I don't know why my mood changed so instantly from contrite to furious.  Maybe because I felt guilty that I hadn't accompanied him.  Maybe because I hate the idea that he won't easily become independent.  Maybe because my young child (with an intellectual disability to boot) was so uncomfortable about facing this lady, but was doing it with courage and dignity, and she refused to even acknowledge him.  Maybe because she was acting as though his behaviour was unforgivable which led me to believe she thought Buddy's motives were dark.

I coldly said, "NO!  He was in here with his older sister!  She was in the toilet.  Come on Buddy!  Let's go.  She's obviously not interested in your apology."  Then I stormed out with Buddy in tow.  I'm not proud of how I handled the situation.  I should have kept my emotions out of it.
His sisters were terribly upset about the chain of events and were fussing over him.  I asked them to stop making a big deal out of it, explaining that his behaviour was very wrong and that he needed to be aware of that.  However, I also told them that the lady had made too big a deal about it and was very thoughtless in her response.

I went to bed feeling very disturbed.  My boy is eight.  Did this woman really think there was some deviant sexual reason for him looking under the shower stall?  He intellect is low and I liken the incident to a three year old peeking under out of curiosity.

I guess I was also very disturbed because I wonder if this is a sign of things to come.  Will Buddy be judged for his differences in an unfair way as he ages?  Will people distrust him through a lack of understanding of Down syndrome?  Or am I now making the same mistake as the young lady and making a mountain out of a mole hill?
This is my little boy who is kind and compassionate, the boy who, when given a gift, asks if there is a gift for his sisters as well, before he opens his; the boy who insists on getting changed in the changing rooms for swimming lessons (because it's the grown up thing to do) and then comes out starkers because he just doesn't understand what this privacy thing is about; the boy who wants to work in the house and yard and be respected; my little boy who wishes he was just like everyone else.

Oh Buddy, how I wish I could make sure life goes well for you!


Suzie Simplelife said...

It's completely ok for your protection instincts to jump out in anger when someone treats your child like this...I can't count the amount of times kids have poked there heads under toilet and shower doors when I have been camping..I usually just say "hello" and smile and off they go...I've even passed toilet paper and soap to the individuals in the next cubicle...clearly something wrong when a young women gets so angry at a little boy and even worse won't accept an apology. Unfortunately Buddy will have to face this type of person as he matures and I think you are giving him excellent tools to deal with life.

Hayley said...

I am often shocked at the rude and immature people in this world who should be setting an example for children. I remember not knowing how to respond when a young boy peaked under the door of a changing stall thinking his mom or sister would be in there. I was surprised and some kind of an 'Eeek!' came out of my mouth, which I think scared him. All was quickly forgotten when his mom came to apologize and I let them know all was fine.
Kids need to know that people make mistakes and is okay. All we can do is learn, but if they are met with that kind of rudeness whenever they mess up, all that will do is foster anxiety. I very much think that the blame is on her this time, not you.

Fergie51 said...

Oh dear, fright and fear from both sides of the door. I would be upset because I'd hate anyone to see me in the shower, poor things, they would never recover! Don't ever apologise for caring for your child, too many children are in dire need of this protection, love and knowing that you are there for them. Yes, lessons need to be taught about appropriate behaviour and actions and yes other people need to learn tolerance. Always room for growth on both sides, irrespective of any so called disability.

Farmer Liz said...

I agree with Hayley. My husband had the experience of someone looking under the door at him in a camp ground once, it was a permanent resident, and apparently Pete was in "his shower" and he wondered why Pete was wearing thongs, we found it quite hilarious afterwards, people just need to have a sense of humour about these things, no-one was hurt!

Jenna the Pig Lady said...

I'm so disappointed for Buddy and you, and the girls even, that the woman's response was not more forgiving. People do the wrong thing, sometimes in ignorance, like in this instance, sometimes not. Either way, especially with kids (irrespective of his disability), you would think that a really appropriate apology and explanation would deal with it. But having said that, not many kids these days are taught such skills as even looking people in the eye, responding to questions, or being responsible enough to apologise. Um, sadly lots of adults are like that too. Maybe it's just an opportunity for Buddy to learn something new, and all of the kids to see that not everyone handles things in a good way, but it's good to do that yourself anyway. You taught him to do the right thing after making a mistake. Sadly, the young woman didn't quite match it.

Fiona from Arbordale Farm said...

Oh Linda I am sorry that you all had this experience. It is completely normally for kids of all ages to peek under the showers in campgrounds. If a boy is still considered young enough (physically or mentally) to be accompanied to the ladies toilets then he is still young enough to be forgiven for this behavior. Kids are curious and this lady completely overreacted, I wonder if she has limited experience with children to understand this is just what kids do.
I have had kids of all ages look under the stall at me and I normally just say hi. Once they know someone is in there and what they are doing they go back to what they are doing. An apology from a child is a BIG deal and this lady clearly had no idea of how much courage it took so that makes me think she has no experience of children. I think you just need to talk about how some people like those who have commented would have reacted differently but that some people are more sensitive.

livecheaperdaybyday said...

I feel sad that she did not acknowledge his apology, he would of been scared to go back in there and he would feel that he had not been heard. What a horrible woman she was ,she is the adult and could have accepted the situation for what it was and no need to carry on so rudely.
I am glad your protective instincts kicked in that is why we are mothers.

Cheryl said...

I can't add anything more to the previous comments, they have all said what I would (and so well). It makes "home" seem ever so more wonderful when you have one of those bad experiences out in the "real" world!

Crunchie's Mum said...

Some of the nicest people I know have Downs Syndrome. I am privileged to work in the disability sector. It sounds like you are a great mum. Life can be challenging for someone with a disability not the least because of other people's attitudes but, with the right support, it can also be very rewarding. The wider community can also be educated and be more accepting of someone with a disability. I find that most of the 'difficulties' we have are because someone has had limited contact with people with a disability and simply doesn't understand and is unsure of how to react or what to do. Communities can be very supportive of people with a disability. I am lucky enough to live and work in a town where, for the most part, people are accepted for who they are. It sounds like you are a great parent and Buddy is learning the skills to have a wonderful and rewarding life.


Kathy said...

Buddy is going to be fine in life - he obviously has a very supportive family, he will have bad days, we all do, but I think it is plain to see that he will learn and grow and someday this will be a funny family story. He is so lucky to have a family like yours to grow up in. I suspect your angry woman may have been angry because she knew she was wrong!
Oh and I totally think going into 'defend your child to the death' mode is acceptable, even laudable!

Anonymous said...

well done Buddy, you were a very good boy to go and say sorry. Your whole family must be very proud of you for being so brave especially when that lady was rude to you. Do you think she may heave learnt a lesson about understanding from you? I hope so.
green gran

Ros said...

Dear Linda
Like your Buddy our beautiful Rebecca has created some interesting situations for our family.
There are people who do not understand our treasures with disability, and there are others who just chose not to understand.
On the flip side we are blessed with people who do love and value our Rebecca, like I guess you have with Buddy. They are the ones we must value and surround ourselves with so that our kids can feel the worth that we know they are.

Madge said...

Hats off to Buddy for having the bravery to go with you and apologise. Hats off to you for dealing with the situation. Hopefully the young lady will realise how unreasonable she was.
I have read your blog often and it was the last line of your post that moved me to comment. My brother is 55 now and still has people that love him and help him to deal with the things life can still throw at him from time to time. The lessons my mother taught him way back when he was your Buddy's age have paid great dividends for him and I am sure your lessons and love will for Buddy.