Yesterday I was standing outside the elevator at the El Cerrito Plaza station (he tells me where he wants me to stand, he doesn't want me inside with him). The doors had just closed, sending Child 1 up to the platform, when a woman came running over and said "you're not going up?"
"No," I replied. "I'm just standing here while my son rides." I was looking at my phone and not really paying attention.
"But I need to ride this elevator," she said, she seemed very annoyed, and she punched the button a number of times. This got my attention.
"Well. When the doors open next you can get on!" I said. Horray! Okay, that was rather sarcastic but I don't actually think she knew that.
"What do you mean your son is riding the elevators? Nobody just rides elevators." She said.
"My son does," I answered.
"Do you mean he's playing with them... like a toy??" She was horrified.
"Yes." I said.
"Elevators are not toys!!" She was really getting mad now.
"Well." I thought about how to phrase this. "They are to him."
"I can't believe you're letting your son play with elevators like a toy." She said. "That is just really bad parenting."
Now you've stepped in it, lady.
"Oh, and you would know?" I asked.
"Yes, I would know. My children are very well behaved and I would never allow this."
"Well, that's kind of sad." I said. "I feel sorry for your children."
She went on a bit more about how horrible it was, what I was doing, and she looked around as if she wanted to alert the authorities about this awful act of parenting she was witnessing. As she looked in the direction of the station agent I wanted to dare her to try and bust me (I didn't) because not 10 minutes earlier I had had a conversation with that station agent. I told him that my son was autistic and he loved riding elevators. I explained to him that even though Child 1 was taking the elevator up to the platform level, he wasn't going to ride the train, he just really liked the elevator. I also told him that I would be standing outside the doors the whole time, that we have safety rules and my son knows them very well. The station agent pleasantly agreed that riding elevators was a fun activity my son would be allowed to enjoy.
Finally the elevator doors opened and there stood Child 1 (one of our safety rules is that he must be standing there whenever the doors open). I called for him to come out, and naturally he asked me why, as he does about everything I tell him to do. As they passed each other I told him "because this lady here is very mean and I don't want you in an elevator with her." He was totally unfazed by the whole thing but no way in hell was I going to let her trap my kid in an elevator and lecture him on the ride up. He can wait for the next one.
I was talking to my mom about this later and she asked me what the big deal was; after all elevators are not, in fact, a toy. (She's right, of course, they are not). The big deal was this woman's attitude. She comes up on me with her lecture about what good parenting is and how I'm not doing it, not even stopping for a moment to consider an alternate viewpoint. Never mind that elevators are REALLY FUN for kids, it's all just "this is what I think and you disagree therefore you are wrong," and I am just so fucking sick of that. I'm so tired of other people's opinions, and other people's attitudes, and other people's words. There are so many incredibly selfish and unhappy people in the world, who only care about themselves and their own thoughts, both online and in the "real" world, and if I never had to encounter any of them ever again I would be really really happy.
I didn't mention autism, and I suppose I missed an opportunity to create a "teachable moment," but like I told my mom: It's none of that lady's fucking business. It's none of her business who my kid is or what motivates him to do what he does, it's not like he's bothering anybody. He's quietly riding the elevator AND being very polite to all the people he rides with. He steps out of the way for bikes, he presses the buttons for them, he holds the door open while they board. The only person who needed to know details about him was the station agent, who would have told us if what we were doing was inappropriate. I do not owe her an explanation about our activities, after all she engaged me. Now, if she wanted to be cool about it and ask questions, I would have been thrilled to have a conversation with her. We could have talked about how he loves the elevators and I don't really understand it, either, and yeah, maybe it's a little bit unusual to spend the afternoon playing with an elevator like a toy, but it just makes him so happy. I would have been glad to talk to her about our daily activities, all she had to do was just be a little bit cool, just seem a little bit interested, just not be a sanctimonious bitch.
But I had no interest in "teaching" at that moment, anyway, because it was so refreshing to have somebody actually confront me for once. So much of the time there is just silent judgment, or people whisper behind your back, or a blog post is written, and I so rarely get an opportunity to actually respond to something somebody says or thinks about me. To say "you don't know me, you don't know my kid, all you know is yourself and your own experience and I'm not interested in what you think so just keep it to yourself." To tell them to go fuck themselves and I don't give a shit what you think of my parenting. Well, I didn't get to say all of that, but still. It felt good.
I'm just pissed I didn't say that I bet all her kids are in therapy now; I hate it when you think of those great lines after it's too late. Well, we'll be back to that BART station probably next week, maybe she'll be back, too.... *fingers crossed*