Four minutes to fail

It’s 3:48 pm.

The time disappears from the dashboard as I turn off the car’s engine. I flip open my cell phone, checking my call history as I get out. I phoned at 3:20 pm, so the pizza should be ready.

I pull open the steamed-over glass door and enter the oven-warmed vestibule. To the left is the entrance to the dining area. To my right is the window for take-out orders. I step up and give my name.

I’m startled by the thwunk of the door shutting. I’m just as surprised by the inordinately loud sound now as I was two weeks ago.

While the employee looks for my order, I glance at the cork board on the wall. It is a collage of business cards, flyers for events, posters of items for sale and services offered. I don’t have time to peruse them before the guy is announcing my total. I give him my credit card.

As my card is returned, the door is being opened. When I look at the arriving customer, I notice something new: a box of lollipops on the edge of the counter. It’s one of those fundraisers where you deposit money on the honor system.

Having no interest in candy, I’m about to turn my attention back to my transaction when a word on the box catches my eye: autism. It is a reflex to me now. I peer more closely and read the name of the non-profit who will benefit from these sales.

“Oh no,” I exhale to myself, shaking my head.

Autism is Curable.

My brain goes into overdrive.

Who had these put here? The owner? An employee? A customer?

Should I complain? What should I say?

My receipt is done printing. I sign the curling slip of paper and return it with the pen, receiving my plain white box in exchange.

I move past the other patron, walk to my car and get in with the pizza.

I left annoyed. How ridiculous is it to think that a few cents generated from selling some generic ball of sugar at the end of a cardboard stick is going to really make a difference?

I left angered. Why not raise money for providing services for autistics rather than stigmatizing them further by promoting the need to research for a cure?

I left afraid. What happens to the next person who sees that box? The one who doesn’t know anyone with autism? The person who reads “autism is curable” and then meets my autistic son, thinking he needs to be fixed?

I left ashamed. I lacked the courage to lodge a protest. I was unprepared to articulate my concerns. I wasn’t able to explain how those three words are so hurtful to my son.

When I start the engine, the time reappears on the dash: 3:52 pm.

It only took four minutes to fail my son as an advocate.

Linking up with Yeah Write.

28 thoughts on “Four minutes to fail

  1. ohh you just made me so sad. don’t think that. we all have moments where we want to change things, say something, do something, but we can’t change the whole world and fight with the whole world. you absolutely are your son’s best advocate… a loving caring good mom. don’t ever do that to yourself.


  2. No. You should not beat yourself up over a lollipop stand. Only morons who would spend the money on worhtless sugar would believe that line. That does not cheapen what we do as parents of differently abled children. You need to release the idea that not advocating against that type of stupidity is a personal failure to your son. The data is out there for those who wish to read it. There is no shortage of credible and scholarly material…I don’t think a lollipop fundraiser is a credible or scholarly source of information. Feel rested and guilt free and do not belittle yourself.


  3. Please do not think that you are failing your child — we must all choose the battles we wage, and this one wasn’t really a battle you needed to fight. The only people who buy those lollipops are parents whose children see them and beg. No one actually reads the stuff included — I know I don’t.


  4. Ugh! A punch to the gut. There are so many ways for us to tell ourselves we failed. I actually believe you are a discerning, thoughtful, feeling, engaged mother. That’s what I want from my mom and what I want to be for my kids, regardless of what they will face in life. You care and you are thinking about the ramifications. I lvoe this about you.


  5. You are definitely not failing your son! Writing this proves that. And no one can fight about every single thing, every single time, you just can’t. Letting one thing go, even if it eats at you later, that’s not failing. It’s saving your fight for something bigger.


  6. You are not failing. You are caring and thoughtful and an advocate. I agree with Michelle’s words that you are “saving your fight for something bigger.” There always will be something bigger, I’m afraid…


  7. I would have been offended, too, but I don’t think you’re failing your son. There’s that saying about picking your battles; this one probably isn’t worth it. And if, after what everyone has said, you still feel like doing something about it, you can always call and speak with the manager. Chances are, the person who rang up your order couldn’t do anything about it, anyway.


  8. Oh dear! 😦 No! You are not failing your son. Every day you wake up and care for him and love him unconditionally is a triumph. You mayn’t have spoken to that issue but there will be other occasions for you to speak on his behalf.


  9. You, sweet, dear mama, are one rock star advocate for your son. I’ve read your advocacy on these pages and nothing will convince me otherwise. Keep up the amazing work and kick those mean voices to the curb. And I’ll try to do the same! 😉


  10. You did not fail, and I think that your post about this is one step, however small, in advocating. In making people think and understand a little more what they may not. And maybe you will find a way to kindly talk to the manager via phone or when you are not picking up your pizza. I’m sure these things hit you swiftly, suddenly, and deeply, so I think the initial response was just that. Well written, and I appreciate you sharing this.


  11. You didn’t fail him. You’re advocating for him right now by writing this, raising awareness, sending the message that providing services is more productive. You did not lack courage. You have a ton of courage and you reacted like any other mother would react. The pizza restaurant employees might have been so focused what they were doing or not even aware of who was behind the jar. But now that you’ve had time to think it over and collect your thoughts, you’ll know how to handle it. Maybe it’s not even to go back and talk to the people at the pizza restaurant. But I’d say you’ve already started. Well done!


  12. It’s so hard to be the bad guy in these situations and say something. But I’ll agree with the above comment that your energy is best saved for a different kind of advocacy


  13. You did not fail – please know that. I hope we figure out the hows and whys of autism – but in the meantime I am right there with you on the importance of providing services and assistance to families who are living with autism every day. I see my friends struggling as parents to do the best they can for their kids – please know that as his mom you are doing the MOST important work.


  14. Chiming in with my agreement – you are most certainly not a failure, nor did you fail your son. Great job conveying such emotion within the word limit. This one hit me.


  15. No random box of candy somewhere or something written somewhere or something said by anyone could or should make you judge your role as a mother. You are a good mother because you care enough to need validation for your actions towards your son. You are a good mother to feel offended by what that box said. And the impassioned post above says that your son has a great mother. 🙂


  16. I’m with ModMom–you’re so advocating right. now. But I don’t think that you wrote this for reassurance. It’s such a challenge to convey the complexities of shit situations in a 500 word post. In my opinion, you nailed it.


    1. You’re right-I left a lot unsaid in order to keep the post within the word limit. I really wanted to capture my impressions from those four minutes, including my initial sense of failure.
      That being said, the experience did leave me wondering if I’m prepared for the next time. Will I find the right words when it is a battle worth fighting? What am I prepared to demand from someone else? How can I be most persuasive?


  17. Hard to say anything new here, just echo what everyone else said: you have to pick you battles. You have advocated for your child print up a copy of this and take it into the store. Fantastic post.


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