So, did you hear about that crazy family in Plainfield? You know, the one whose child was lying on the floor by the front door of Larry's Diner, screaming at the top of her lungs, biting her hand until it bled. I heard the parents had to practically drag her out of there, and she was screaming the whole time. How can they let their child behave like that? What is wrong with them? That family is C-R-A-Z-Y!
That family is my family. You would think after years of being a parent, I would be past getting embarrassed over causing a scene. People are always staring at us and the kids, trying to figure them out, trying to figure us out. But today was just awful.
Maybe it was because we haven't had an incident that bad in a long time. Maybe it was the utter feeling of helplessness that Ken and I both felt. It was so simple. Soccer was rained out, we were all in the car, why not take the kids to breakfast? In the booth, we ordered food and Kristine had her portable DVD player that we try to never leave home without. Then the bottom fell out. The DVD player's battery died. Kristine was instantly upset. She let out a high-pitched scream and put her fingers in her mouth and bit down hard.
I immediately tried to escort Kristine out of the restaurant. This made her more upset. She continued screaming and, when we got to the door, threw herself on the ground. Ken had to come and force her up and into the car. She's gotten big and strong, and he could hardly manage her.
Standing out front was a boy and his dad. The boy ran up to me. "Why was she screaming?" he asked. I looked to the dad to see if he was going to intervene. He just stared at me as if to say, "Yeah, why was your kid screaming?" I told the boy, "You should ask your dad to explain to you about special-needs children and why we need to have compassion. You should also ask him what is appropriate to ask people you don't know."
I'm upset because I feel utterly defeated. All these years, all this work and here I stand with a teenage daughter I can't control. What if this continues to happen? How am I ever going to go out in public with her? How are we going to do this? Am I failing as a mom?
We got our food to-go. I practically ran to the car. In the back seat, I sat with a bloody, tear-stained Kristine who kept asking for kisses. Her hand was bleeding because she had bitten it so hard.
Fifteen minutes later we were all safely home, sitting at the kitchen table, eating lukewarm food out of take-out containers.
Ken and I are exhausted. We are scared. We don't know where the future is headed. But right now I'm in a quiet house. Jay is sleeping on the couch, Kristine is watching TV, I'm at the computer pouring my heart out, and in this moment we are all OK.
Deep breath and moving forward ...
Susan Ryan is a mom of two adopted children with special needs in Plainfield.