About a month ago we had an experience that got me thinking about this post, so when Amy wrote about her son Nathan, I decided to copy her.
It's really hot here in Texas so on those days when the heat index is 115 degrees, I like to take my stir-crazy kids to an indoor playground. On this particular trip we met up with a friend and her daughter. After helping Della walk around the playground I set her in a small "boat" that she couldn't easily climb out of. The boat had two seats and so I asked Archer if he could sit with her for a minute while I gave my back a rest. Archer enthusiastically agreed because he is sweet like that. I turn around and walk to a bench that isn't too far from where my children are. I see a little boy (maybe 18 to 24 months old) attempt to dive into the boat and onto my daughter. I see Archer stop the boy and say "No No" and something like "There isn't enough room in here for you too." Almost immediately a 60+ year-old woman wearing a embarrassingly short skirt starts wagging her finger at Archer yelling at him. I can't hear what is being said but you can bet that I was high-tailing it over there to see what was going on. By the time I get there the woman is going back to her seat. I take one look at Archer's terrified face and I pull him into a hug and he starts hysterically BAWLING. He is sobbing so hard that I can't even understand what he is saying. After a few minutes the story comes out that the woman yelled that he wasn't in charge of this playground and if a kid wants to climb into the boat, Archer has no right to say that he can't. My favorite part was she threatened to "Call the mall police" on Archer if he did anything like that again. My friend Laura who was with us wanted to go to yell at the lady, but instead she took Della by the hands and helped her walk over to where the woman was sitting. When the woman saw that Della was handicapped she immediately got up and left. The little boy that Archer kept from clobbering Della WASN'T EVEN HER KID! Meanwhile Archer is still sobbing and saying over and over again "I was just trying to protect Della! I didn't want her to get hurt and she can't say to other kids that they are hurting her!" I was super angry. Like seeing-red-spots angry. But mostly I was sad. I was sad that Archer had to endure that woman's ranting. I was sad that I had asked him to sit with Della in the first place. I was sad that he has to protect his sister at all. I was sad that the woman didn't take 5 seconds to survey the situation and that she yelled at a little boy until he was crying. But the worst part of it all was knowing that this would not be the last time something like this would happen.
This is just the way life is for Archer. We do our best to see that he gets one-on-one time with Chad and me. We have wonderful friends who offer to take him to places that Della can't go to, like the movies. When we do make a trip to somewhere special (the library, the park, etc.) sometimes we have to leave after only being there 20 minutes because the place is too loud for Della and she is throwing her goldfish at people while screaming as loud as she can. He has never complained about it. Nothing will ever change the fact that he has a sister that needs help, and sometimes that help will be him. The best/wort part is that he doesn't mind. For some reason this makes my heart hurt. How can he be so good and kind and patient when he is so young?
Archer has NEVER hit Della or done anything to intentionally hurt her out of anger or frustration. She pulls his hair, sticks her hand in his ice cream, tackles him when he is playing with the iPod, or turns off the TV while he is in the middle of a video game. Archer responds by gently prying her fingers apart to release his hair, spoon feeding her some of his ice cream, making room and cuddling next to her so she can see the iPod too, and by learning how to pause his game without having to actually see the screen.
I don't know if Chad and I will have anymore kids. If Della outlives us, it will be on Archer alone to take care of his sister. This fact makes me so sad. But, if he grows into the adult that I hope he will, I wouldn't trust her care to anyone else.
Oh, and to the lady that yelled at Archer in the mall, if you are reading this, you need to stop yelling at small children until they cry. Please try and get some mental help because clearly you have some serious issues. And one more thing, please throw away that skirt. Frankly, it was grossing everyone out.
2 years ago