I saw you staring at us in that crowded restaurant.
I know you heard us trying to calm our son down as he yelled and panicked. You could’ve judged us. You could’ve given us dirty looks. You could’ve asked us to quiet down, but you didn’t. You just smiled, and you have no idea what an impact you made. You had no idea I was holding on by a thread. You had no idea that your words that day gave me strength.
It was a beautiful (albeit humid) day at Disneyworld. We were having an incredible time on our oldest son’s Make a Wish trip. Magic Kingdom was the part our son was most excited to see. Our kids were so excited to be there, but kids still have moments, tantrums and meltdowns – even at the happiest place on earth. It was past lunch time and moods were turning sour fast.
We walked by restaurant after restaurant, but couldn’t find a table. We finally found a table in a crowded restaurant, and sat down. I pushed my son’s wheelchair into an open spot at a table probably meant for four, but we squeezed in our family of five. My husband hurried to fold up our double stroller and get it out the way. We helped our other two kids get settled before noticing the incredibly long line in the front of the restaurant where we had to go place our order. We were all hungry, hot and tired. We were all about to snap, and that’s when the meltdown started.
Our son started yelling.
“I don’t want to eat here!” He was sweating from the humidity. He kept telling us how worried he was about having time to ride all his favorite rides. His anxiety and OCD were taking over fast. He needed to eat, take his meds and rest. But all he could focus on was the crowded chaos surrounding him. Sensory overload was creeping in and there was nothing we could do to stop it. So he yelled. He cried. And, he melted down in the middle of that crowded little restaurant.
My husband and I did our best to calm him, but he was trapped in his own mind. He was crying, panicking and loudly telling us to leave him alone. I tried so hard to calm him down, but he continued on, and finally my husband told me to go get in line. He could see tears welling up in my eyes, so he took over and I went to get the food.
You didn’t know our story.
You didn’t know about his OCD. You didn’t know that both of our sons were recently diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. I looked at you and your beautiful family as you sat eating quietly. Your kids weren’t yelling, they were eating. You weren’t on the verge of tears like me. You were there to have fun and eat lunch, yet you were forced to listen to us struggle to calm our child down. You didn’t know, yet you smiled at us from your table.
I came back with an overflowing tray of food. I sat down and starting passing out food, medications and drinks to my kids. My husband looked exhausted. He told me the meltdown continued even louder when I left. We knew people heard it. Some were still staring when I came back. My son was quiet by then. He had his head down resting on his folded arms on the table. The meltdown was over, but we were all visibly shaken by it.
Finally, all of our children started eating and the color came back into their sweet, sweaty, little faces. Our son who now sat eating, looked embarrassed and upset. We hugged him, and he apologized immediately. We told him we forgave him. We told him we loved him, and then we tried to move on. “Let’s have an awesome day!” My husband cheered in an attempt to start fresh. “What are we going to ride next?”
Maybe you saw my son’s wheelchair and decided to be kind to us.
Maybe you saw our Make a Wish shirts and felt sorry for us. Maybe you have experience around a child with anxiety or sensory issues. Maybe you just felt compassion for us for no reason at all. It doesn’t matter why you chose to smile or say those words as you left. What matters is the beautiful impact you had on us that day.
As you got up to leave, you walked by our table to throw away your trash. “Sorry about that,” we said with our heads down. That’s when you decided to do more than smile back at us. That’s when your kindness did more than make me cry, it gave me strength.
“Oh no, don’t apologize. I think you guys are absolutely amazing.”
Silent tears fell down my face as I smiled back at her. My husband thanked her, and then reached over and held my hand. That moment turned from embarrassing to beautiful, because of the kind words of a stranger.
So many people in that restaurant sat judging and staring. Maybe not all of them were staring, but it sure felt like we were surrounded by judgmental eyes. We felt defeated. We sat silently praying for strength in the middle of an embarrassing public moment. That’s when God gave it to us and He used you to do it.
Your words encouraged me, gave me strength and stayed with me the whole day. Your words still encourage me, all these months later.
The rest of the day was magical.
We rode our favorite rides multiple times. We ate churros, laughed and had an unforgettable day full of fun. There were no more meltdowns, and thanks to you I didn’t dwell on the one bad moment of the day. I focused on the good. I focused on your words.
You didn’t judge us, or say something rude. You smiled and had compassion. You saw good in us, when we failed to see it in ourselves, and for that I’m so thankful. I may never get a chance to thank you personally for your kindness that day, but if I could I would tell you how much your words meant to me.
And, to all the moms who’ve been kind in a tough moment, thank you. Never doubt the impact of kindness. Kindness gives hope to the hopeless. Kindness turns tears into smiles. Kindness gives strength to the weary.
So, to every single mom out there who has taken the time to show kindness to tired, worn out mama’s like me, thank you.
Thank you for being kind when it was needed most.