Too Quick to Blame

June 10, 2014
A week ago, Robert made noises in the bank. That took me off guard. I felt embarrassed. Unable to properly react, I left the bank. Of course, Robert left with me. Although we had planned going to the farm and to a park, I didn’t feel it would be appropriate given Robert’s unpredictable behavior. And thus, despite Robert’s protests, we returned home.
Robert didn’t want to leave the car. I turned it off and went home. Fifteen minutes later, Robert came too. We talked about not making noises. I mean, I talked. Robert, embarrassed as well, was agreeing with me, “Okay, okay”, he kept repeating after each of my scolding statements. The soft way he kept saying, “Okay, Okay”, melted my heart, so we went to the farm and to the park after all. At the farm we walked into a green house and bought a few herbs and a freshly baked bread. Then we drove to the Moose Hill Audubon. Robert was patiently listening to my conversation with the person in the visitor center about oncoming native plant sale. Then we went on a short Boardwalk Trail. It was a wonderful day. We rested on the bench standing at the edge of a meadow. We watched birds entering and leaving their homes, enjoyed scents of unknown plants, and admired wild irises. Robert was relaxed, calm and happy. I was too. On a way back to the parking lot I tripped and fell. Robert screamed and quickly patted his cheeks. He was upset. He was concerned. He was scared. I slowly got up. My knee hurt, my hand was bleeding. Robert was still making grunting noises. “I fell and you scream. That is not right.”,I said stupidly. As soon as I finished this idiotic observation, I realized, that if it were Robert who fell, he would not scream. He screamed because he was afraid for ME. He screamed because he felt MY discomfort.
We walked silently back to the visitor center. Robert rested on the bench while I went to wash my hand in the restroom.
It was only then that I understood why Robert made those grunting noises in the bank. Only then!
I should understand his behavior sooner. After all, he had never before behaved inappropriately in any of the banks he went with me. Not when we did transactions with tellers, not when he waited in line, not when we spent long time at the desk with the managers while opening an account or straightening some errors. Not even when the baskets which should have lollipops were empty. Never!
But then again, I had never felt so strangely in any bank before.
Cashing Robert’s check was not a problem. He signed the check, handed it to the teller, got his money, and put it in his wallet.
It was only when I turned to the man sitting in the open enclosure to ask a question that something strange happened. A tall woman coming from nowhere appeared in front of me, as if blocking me from trespassing. I realized that she came from a room with closed doors as if I were watched suspiciously from behind. I felt uneasy, as if I did something terribly inappropriate. Almost apologetically I restated my problem – need to recover Robert’s password so I could practice with him online banking. The woman stated in a manner which was both dismissive and pushy, that since Robert had a guardian, he couldn’t be allowed to do his online banking anyway. I responded that this didn’t sound right, because we had done online banking three years before. And exactly in this moment, Robert approached us making grunting noises and running his fingers through his cheeks.
As I washed off the dirt from my hand in the visitor center of the park, three hours later, I finally understood that Robert was upset, because he was afraid for ME. He thought we were fighting. The woman was a foot taller and she stood extremely closed to me in what one might called, my personal space. I felt intimidated, confused, and uncomfortable.
Those feelings negatively influenced my ability to understand Robert’s perspective. I didn’t think about how Robert read this situation and how he felt about it. I heard his noises and treated them as if they were expressing unprovoked anger.
If I were not so quick to blame Robert for inappropriate behavior, I would understand that he was afraid for me. He might either think that I was under sort of attack, or that I was arguing. He doesn’t like arguing.
If I were not so quick to blame, I would tell, Robert, “It’s okay, it’s okay. We are not arguing. I am just asking for advice. It’s okay. The lady is friendly. (I would lie) It’s okay.”
That would be the end of it.
But I didn’t do that. I left upset with Robert for loudly expressing his frustration. I left heartbroken that “Robert’s ‘irrational’ behaviors returned without a reason.” Robert left confused and ashamed.
Everything because of being too quick to blame and to slow to understand.

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