To the Woman at the Pool

An open letter to the stranger who approached me in the locker room as I was restraining my 8-year-old, who outweighs me by 15 pounds:

I know how we must have looked. 

My daughter had been on edge all day. It’s why we took her to this public pool in the first place. We knew she had to get some physical energy out, and hoped it would be enough to shake out whatever was making her feel so uneasy. 

And it had sort of worked. She had been basically placated. Pretty much having fun. She got upset at one point because- you know what? I don’t even remember. Her triggers are often random. She ripped my sunglasses off of my head and snapped them in her hand. Maybe you saw that. I know the people next to us did. They probably wondered why I didn’t scream or grab her by the ear or even spank her. Why instead my reaction was “well, at least it was just cheap sunglasses.”

So when you saw us in the locker room, maybe it was the second time you saw me struggling. I don’t think you were there for the first part, when she was trying to explain how she wanted me to do her hair, go frustrated, and therefore started pushing me. I don’t think you were around as I wrapped my arms around hers from behind, interlocking my fingers, and telling her “you are being unsafe. I cannot let go until you are safe again.” I don’t think you were one of the first people who walked by. I saw many look, and skirt around us. Maybe you heard me repeating my line. “You are being unsafe. I cannot let go until you are safe again.” Maybe that’s how you knew?

But wherever you came from, and whoever you are, and however you knew. 

Thank you. 

Thank you for getting in front of us, making eye contact with me, and asking, “are you OK?”

And once I told you I was, thank you for getting down on my daughter’s level and looking her in the eyes. 

Thank you for speaking so calmly to her. Telling her “you have had a good day. I know you have. And you are going to be ok.” You didn’t chastise her. You didn’t judge her. You just told her she was going to be ok. 

Thank you for handling the people who walked by for me. The ones who asked if everything was alright. You told them “this child has some issues and occasionally has episodes. She is having one now. This is her caregiver, and she has it under control.” How did you know that? And how did you know that explaining that and even more importantly understanding it was exactly what I I needed?

Because of your actions, my daughter was better within a minute or two. Often, being restrained sends her into a panic attack. But this time, she laid with her head on my chest, cried for a minute, and pulled herself together. And I pulled myself together. Because a stranger was there to take care of both of us. 

You left so quickly that I didn’t get to thank you, or ask you why you knew what to do, or even get your name. So I’ll just put it out into the universe that you were in the right place at the right time. And you did exactly the right thing. And it made all the difference for my daughter and I. 

This is part of a series about living with someone with emotional special needs. If you’d like to help our family, or learn more about our story, you can check out our gofundme page. 

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