Counting Fries, Discounting Blessings

Ten years ago, Robert and I were sitting at McDonald’s.  Robert had Big Kids Happy Meal with six chicken nuggets, multiple fries, two containers of sweet and sour sauce, four tiny paper cups of ketchup and, of course, medium size coke.  As it was our (mine really) habit, I kept dispensing fries by two, three or four and asking Robert to count them together. Sometimes I gave  Robert five or six fries at a time and as he was eating them by twos or threes, I asked how many were left.  I didn’t think I had much hope that this activity would help Robert memorize any addition or subtraction fact.  After all, his teachers were doing the same things using cute bear counters for years  with no success.   I guess that I felt guilty for coming to McDonald’s much too often.   Counting fries allowed me to fool myself into believing that I was not wasting  time but to the contrary I was using it productively.  I was teaching.  What could be more productive than that?   I even convinced myself that counting fries was a more promising method of teaching. The edible counters related to real life had more value for Robert than blocks or bears.

I was engrossed by my teaching  mission when I heard, “Bless you, bless you for your work with THIS child.”  I lifted my head and noticed a middle-aged man glancing at me on a way to his table.  Luckily, he passed me rather quickly relieving me from any obligation to respond.  I would not know what to say. I knew he meant well, but his words felt sticky and stale.

Unfortunately, I heard the same phrase, “Bless you” many times more.  I heard it always in a company of my son.

In 2006 in a hallway of the Medfield Middle School, the teacher, whom I didn’t know said almost exactly the same thing, “Bless you for the work with THOSE children”.  She obviously took me for a special ed teacher.

This summer, as I was buying ticket to Plimouth Village and Robert bounced happily while waiting to visit the place he remembered from prior trips, the clerk at the desk  offered to pray for me.  This time, I responded, “Please, don’t.”

Each and every person who wanted to pray for me or bless me, was inadvertently telling me that she or he perceived my son as a  heavy burden. Nothing more.

I did  mind (a little)  being an object of other people pity, but I minded hundred times more that fact that they were unable to notice my son’s deep humanity. It was easier for THOSE people to discharge blessing on me than to say one friendly word to my son.

That is why I had to reject the blessings and decline prayers.

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  1. I have difficulties assigning dates to some of the events, I am writing about. I make a mental time line on which I place years when Robert attended different programs, or dates we moved from one home to another. Those are my reference points. I sometimes consult old IEPs (Individual Educational Programs) which before 2006 marked the times Robert acquired specific skills or worked on them. In 2002 we frequented McDonald’s near the house we had just bought. At that time Robert still couldn’t memorize one addition fact.

  2. My husband read the post above and became concerned. He was afraid that I might offend someone who meant well. Unfortunately, I met well meaning people all through my childhood and adolescent years. I walked with a limp. Well meaning people (mostly older ladies, but also a few young drunks) noticed and pitied me. In the process they made me feel terribly about myself. I understand my husband’s feelings, but I don’t share them.


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