The match, the shirt and the Haribo stand.
My son passionately supports a well known football team.
I personally don’t have a preference with football teams but it’s an interest that has helped him with number recognition, understanding boundaries and rules and gives him a sense camaraderie.
If they win a game he’s ecstatically happy, but if they lose……devastation. Tears and a sense of the world ending, nothing will ever be alright again.
The meltdown of the type where sense ( they will play again they will win again) and reason ( sometimes his team won’t win that’s the way it goes) play no part in the whirling black tornado of horror he finds himself in.
We recently went on holiday and his team were playing a prominent team who were in with a good chance of possibly winning.
It would be shown on Sky and we would have to watch it in the main building restaurant as we did not have Sky sports in the caravan we were staying in.
I suggested we not go and find out afterwards but this was not negotiable and that was made clear by the indignation that followed.
My boy was extremely worried about this.
What would happen if they lost?
Where would we sit?
Would there be other fans who supported his team?
Would there be fans of the opposing team there?
Could he have a slushee?
After much reassurance he agreed that we would sit at the front of the restaurant nearest to the tv but on the side.
If they started to lose or if at any point he felt unable to cope we would leave immediately.
I had my bag open and ready to sweep key and purse into and had managed to settle my younger daughter who’s also autistic but not yet diagnosed into a seat with my phone happily watching Disney’s Frozen on YouTube.
A pleasant site security guard had noticed my boys football shirt and remarked in a friendly manner that my sons favourite would probably win anyway which made my son giggle.
The match started and he’s bouncing in his seat, commentating each move and every player, then it happened.
The first goal went in by the opposing team and the security guard let out a loud “Yes!”,
My boy shot me an agonised look and began chewing his fingers.
I cursed myself for not bringing his chewy tube.
“ It’s ok sweetheart”, I said calmly “ Don’t worry,” but exactly thirty seconds later the next goal from the other team went in. The cheers this time were all over the place.
My son shot out of his seat completely panicked looking like a trapped fox cornered by hounds.
I swept the bits into the bag picked my girl up and grabbed his hand, we left within ten seconds, I was pretty proud of myself!
We got outside before the tears began and I held him tight, reassuring him that we would have a play in the park while he calmed down. The sun was out, it was a lovely warm evening.
The repeated scripting started, my sons way of regulating himself as he commentated what he had seen of the match and I waited patiently till the tears stopped and he grounded himself.
I suggested we go to the nearby shop and get them both an ice cream to cheer him up.
He ran eagerly into the shop and bent down to look at the Minion Kinder Eggs.
A man with three children entered who also went to look, I looked around and saw the bread I would need for the mornings toast on the shelf so I grabbed my daughters hand and took her with me. My girl is three and a runner, the door to the shop was wide open and outside was a car park.
I’m now at the till and the children have chosen an ice cream from the freezer each when another man enters.
He was approximately fifty five years old, smartly dressed and looked immediately at my sons football shirt.
The man walked over to my son who’s standing next to me holding his ice cream, leaned forward into his face and said loudly:
“ You want to get that shirt of don’t ya?!” Then laughed loudly.
My sons eyes immediately welled up and he looked at me.
I looked at the man in complete shock and said “ Please don’t!” Then put my hand over my face in a gesture of ‘ What the hell?’
“ What?” He said loudly “They are losing three nil!”.
The man with the children looked startled.
And that’s when my son pushed the man with all his might into the Haribo display sweet stand.
He then ran to me and buried his face in my chest arms tightly wrapped around my waist.
The man said staggered up and bellowed “ You want it do ya?” Plainly furious and staring at my son.
I was sure I had misheard and said “Sorry what?” .
He repeated “ You want it? He just pushed me into that sweet stand what you going to do about it?!”.
Man with children has said loudly to them “ Come away now”, and pulled them well away from the man.
I grabbed my daughter hefted my bag onto my shoulder and said clearly, “ Nothing.”
I then left as fast as possible, my son was shaking and tearful my daughter protesting at being dragged out of another place so rapidly.
I left my change and literally ran them out.
Don’t get me wrong I can argue till the cows come home but this man had offered me out for a fight in a shop with a son who was on the verge of melting down the door was open and my girl as I said is a runner.
My son was terrified and we got back to the caravan and I put him in a warm shower to calm down.
I then explained you can’t shove people into sweet displays.
That if he did that when he was older police would be called, that you can’t just put your hands on people because you don’t agree with what they are saying.
He replied he just wanted him to stop.
I also thought of what I could have done differently and came to the conclusion there was nothing I could have done.
This was not a man who wanted banter, there was no playfulness or sense of teasing in his voice.
He had wanted to embarrass and humiliate my eight year old son.
I had said to him “ Please don’t!” And he had looked back into my sons face.
My son was shaking his eyes were full of tears and his lips were trembling.
He still looked straight into his eyes and sniped “What?! They are losing three nil.”
He knew what he was doing and he enjoyed it.
Why? Who knows.
Why would any one bait and taunt an eight year old child who’s team was losing and who was plainly distressed?
Worse still offer the mother out for a physical fight in front of five children in a small corner shop?
I wondered if I should have attempted to apologise, to explain my son is autistic?
Why would I? This was the type of individual who would have insulted my son further and the fact he had continued to taunt my son despite me asking him not to meant to me that the chance of an apology was not in the running.
So next time there’s a match on, and you see a child or even someone who may be a vulnerable adult think before you mock them.
Think before you taunt, as they may shove you into a Haribo stand.