Just got shamed at the grocery store for my son opening some bulk bin lids even though he didn't touch the food within! I didn't know that children are considered so dirty as to not touch *anything*! I was next to him, reminding him not to touch anything and going as quick as I could to scoop my sugar, which is why I didn't hear the older gentleman calling to me as he stared from his position in line. I looked up to see a scowling face asking me "don't I think that is unhealthy?!" I was indignant that he hadn't *touched* any of the contents and reminded him that the bins get opened all day long! I was also deeply embarrassed and made a hasty retreat. In the car I told my 4yo that adults get very nervous when they see small children opening the bin lids and he said, "oh, then i won't do it anymore."
I felt like I was back in Victorian England where adults had to be protected from the sight and sound of children. I am realizing that that idea is so very much a part of our culture (plus my community is also a retirement community) I feel bad that I made so many people uncomfortable, but I don't think that my son is unhealthy at all, and I don't think of him as dirtier than adults. But I must realize that many people *do* think that and help my kids realize that even though it's not true, many adults *do* get nervous around children and *do* think they are dirty (even if they aren't). I feel bad that I didn't protect us from that situation better, but at the same time---i was offended by his shaming! If a stranger offends me it is not in my nature to call them out on it---but the sanitation card wins almost everytime---there is almost no defense.
One of the difficulties in parenting and especially parenting a challenging child is that we feel continiously being judged , if not by grandparents, relatives, even friends and strangers in the mall = when you kid is having a meltdown.
These negative thoughts and experiences really get to us- I usually say to myself - if he has a problem with my son , it is his problem and in truth ' they don't really care ' and after the count of 10 have forgotten about us.
We just need to believe in ourselves and realize that education is a process
At least he didn't tell you to beat the kid. I've actually had someone tell a friend of mine (who had taken my son and hers to the rest room) that my son needed a beating. (a) he has special needs and (b) he didn't do anything that any other child has done (tried to look under the restroom wall to see who was in the next stall. OMG he saw her feet! Let's just say there was an ugly confrontation in that restaurant that day.
I've found that people today feel entitled to share their opinions on everything from child birth to breast feeding to adoption to discipline. I've found that two phrases usually shut people up. If someone asks an intrusive question I always respond with "why do you ask". That way - if they have a good reason for asking - they will tell you and then you can choose whether or not to answer. If they say something stupid like this man did I'd just say "what a bizarre thing to say" and walk or turn away.
Such a sad lack of admiration to the curiosity of a child. Sigh. Sorry you had to feel the way you felt. I think the explanation and response to and from your little one was precious. I lived in a retirement community as well and the air was very similar to yours nearly everywhere I took my 5 children. Most folks didn't want to be "bothered" with children. I know and have felt your challenges. Hang in there. You are a caring mom who loves unconditionally. As long as your child understands that you were fine with what he did, carry on.
When in my best place I try to think of this sort of thing as an extension of our "village". It does sound like this dude was really jumping to conclusions and wasn't being all that helpful. I mean, in an ideal world he may have offered to help your child serve himself out of the bulk bins or helped distract him while you got your food. Or, at the very least alerted you to the fact that he felt your child was playing with the bins. Or, BETTER still, he could have come over and said to your son that he felt that opening the bins without intending to get food out was unsanitary and why. THAT would have been great. I find "help" from strangers to be often more powerful than from mom. I have been known to ask the store clerk, for instance, if something is allowed and why or why not.
Hugs to you, mama!! It's no fun and most of us have been there at one time or another.
Another way to look at it would be to use that interaction with your son -- to teach him about different expectations from society. You can go in either direction you want -- that people have different opinions about certain things and we co-exist as best we can OR we try to adapt our behavior to fit with what other's think. Sometimes we do one, sometimes we do the other. It would be great to turn this into a learning experience. Tell him why your family chose whichever option you pick.
Troll? Here's me...