Parenting makes us vulnerable. We expose parts of ourselves we never imagined we would – emotionally and in some cases, physically.
Something happened several years ago that I’ve only shared with a select few. I feel like now is a good time to dust off the details and share it out loud because I can laugh about it now.
Back in the summer of 2011 when my daughter was a spunky five-year-old, we were invited to attend a big outdoor children’s event. I didn’t want to go. It was difficult taking my daughter out back then. She’s a precocious kiddo whose physical and cognitive delays make it tough to rein her in sometimes. But my son who was obsessed with lizards at the time was desperate to see the reptile show at the party. His needs frequently come second to his sister’s—which is often the case of siblings of kids with special needs. He was so looking forward to holding a Bearded Dragon, how could I deny him that (creepy) pleasure?
We were at the event less than five minutes when Avery stuck a sponge covered in green paint in her mouth, picked up a pile of goose poop in her hand, and knocked over someone’s coffee. I began to regret the outing.
Then she spotted it—the bouncy castle.
When she climbed inside she bounced and beamed. She was in her happy place. A happy place she refused to leave. When her time was up she wouldn’t come out. I called to her. I tried to coax her out. I tried bribes. She only giggled and bounced away. The line of kids waiting for their turn were getting restless waiting for my child to come out. A woman next to me audibly tsk-tsked, apparently judging me for my lack of parental control. Like the woman who shushed my daughter and I in a changing room. I wanted to shout at her to make her understand that I’m not a parent who lets her children run wild. I am a good mother, but sometimes it’s a struggle. She didn’t see a child with cognitive delays who lives in the moment. She only saw a disobedient child. But I didn’t shout this at her. Instead I turned my back so she couldn’t see the beads of sweat collecting on my forehead.
My son, eight years old, out of frustration and embarrassment said, “Why does she have to do this? I love her mum. I do, but it’s embarrassing.” His pain rang in my ears and rattled around in my brain until it made its way to my heart.
I asked the man who was running the bouncy castle to ask the supervisor inside the castle to guide my daughter out the tunnel.
“Sorry m’am.” he told me. “He can’t do that. You’ll have to go in and get yourself.”
I felt my face flush as I stole a glance at the mob of parents with their kids waiting in line watching.
The man cleared the castle, and I crawled inside. I chased my daughter around the bouncy floor, stumbling awkwardly like an ape. I eventually got a hold of her ankles. With both of us now on our stomachs, I shimmy-crawled backwards, commando style, dragging her with me as I tried to find the opening to the castle with my feet. I shot my legs through the door and as I slid out toward the ground I felt my yoga pants drop to half mast. The breeze on my behind alerted me to the fact that my bare bottom was sticking out the castle door for all to see. In my horror I let go of one ankle in an attempt to hoist my pants. This shift caused me to lose my balance and I fell down a level. I ricocheted off the inflated step and landed in a heap at the bouncy castle operator’s feet. I jumped up, winded but trying to mask my mortification by jokingly exclaiming, “Ta dah! And for my next trick…” as I yanked up my pants.
A woman rushed over and whispered, “Don’t worry, nobody saw anything.” I was grateful. Though later I overheard my son telling my husband, “No, you couldn’t see mummy’s underwear. You could see her whole bum, but not her underwear.” hashtag… #ThongGoneWrong
The incident is hilarious to me now. And now that my daughter is older, not only is she much easier to manage, I’m better able to deal with the upsetting or embarrassing mishaps that are par for the course for parents of children with special needs. Oh heck, for ALL parents.
I guess the bottom (no bare bum pun intended) line is that all parents feel vulnerable—we judge and are judged. We question our ability to parent. We make mistakes and sometimes we fall (and even bounce around a little). But when we do, we get back up, dust ourselves off, and live to moon innocent bystanders another day.