“Cristian…Cristian! Where are you?”
As I saw my son running from one aisle in the craft store to the next screaming how much he hated me, a woman approached me. I thought maybe she was going to point out his whereabouts to me or even ask me to leave the store. Either of those had been responses I'd dealt with before. But then she reached into her pocket and handed me a card.
“I can't work magic, but give me a call sometime and I can see what I can do.”
I quickly looked down at the card. A few words immediately caught my eye. Family. Child. Therapist. Wait, what? I was being solicited by a counselor on Black Friday when all I wanted was to pick up Christmas cards and Rainbow Loom bands.
“We're fine. He's autistic and we are getting the help we need.”
That was all I could muster together as I saw red, shoved the card back into her hand and darted towards my son who finally had enough of the game of Hide and Seek he'd started.
As we drove home, I was mad: mad at him for ruining a relatively good day with his shenanigans, mad at her for taking my attention away from my son and embarrassing me in front of what felt like the whole store, the neighborhood and most of Milwaukee's south side, but more importantly, mad at myself.
I was mad that I was mad at him for being a kid. I was mad that I allowed myself to be embarrassed by the situation. I was mad that I hadn't stood up more for my little boy. I replayed the situation over and over again and wished more and more that I would have paused for a second and told her what I really felt.
“Ma'am, I'm afraid you don't know what magic is. Magic is the first moment your child is laid on your chest and you can't believe you helped create this tiny miracle. Magic is the first time they hold your finger in their whole hand, the times they look at you and smile, laugh or say your name. Magic is finding out that God trusts you enough to give you a child with special needs. Magic is each and every time they reach a milestone you were told they'd never accomplish or hit an IEP goal. Magic is proving insensitive and ignorant people like yourself that my son is more than just another case for you. You see, magic means an extraordinary influence and you can't work magic on someone who's as magical as my child.”
I would then take her card, rip it into pieces, throw it up in the air and walk away in a shower of self-made confetti flipping my hair and shaking my hips in a way that would make her know I meant business and every word I said.
Unfortunately, I can't go back in time. But I can help shape the future. I will keep this in my back pocket for the next time someone tells me they'd like to work their magic on my son. I will also encourage all of you to speak out on behalf of your child with special needs. You are their voice.
And I urge you to embrace the magic that lies within your child, especially during those less than magical moments, like mine in the craft store on Black Friday. I know my son is extraordinary and influential, and I don't need any expert to tell me that. No business card can show me what I already know.
Roald Dahl once said that those who don't believe in magic will never find it.
Do you believe in magic? I do.