I was at a country field day several years back and I was buying some lunch at one of the stalls. While I was waiting in the line I heard this lad about 11 years old swearing at his grandma & grandpa. No matter what they did he told them to “F*#@ Off”. I was astounded at the vocabulary on this lad and the lack of respect for his grandparents. The boy was really loud and really obnoxious and his abuse was escalating.
My inner voice was saying to me – “These grandparents obviously have no idea how to control this kid and he must have terrible parents with a mouth like that”. The scene was getting awkward with this tirade of bad language and concerned mothers were moving their own kids away to keep their ears protected from such a poor example. The grandma kept calm yet seemed embarrassed as this boy did whatever he liked.
I nearly went up to the boy and told him to settle down, but chose to do what most people do and talk with other people on the line and judge the boy and the family. I was so shocked I actually rang my wife and said ” I have just witnessed the worst example of parenting in my life and this kid is gonna end up in jail”. I then bought my hotdog and drink and went back to my business thinking I am glad I am not those grandparents…how embarrassing.
Several months later I thought about that day again and I started to feel terrible. I realised this boy must of had a severe case of Tourette’s Syndrome (or possibly ADHD). I would bet my life savings that those grandparents were trying to give the parents of the boy a well deserved break and trying to provide a normal day for the boy where he can be around the general public, irrespective of his behaviour. I distinctly remember the face of the grandma as she was so embarrassed but resided to the fact that all the people around her had judged her (and her family) in a really unfair manner.
What I realise now is these grandparents need our admiration and support and probably a medal for having the courage to not only put up with the abuse, and having to feel the harsh judgement from others but for trying to provide a ‘small piece of normality’ for this boy no matter the consequences to them. I wish I could turn the clock back and deal with this situation completely differently. Us people talking behind their backs should actually go up to grandma and ask “is there anything we can do to help?, as it seems you are having a tough day” . This may open the conversation to find out what the ‘real story’ is.
I will never know 100% what the real story was that day, but it made an impact on my thinking and how I deal with people in the future. So why I am bringing this story up in a dementia based group????…..
I felt it was relevant because it is the same stigma carers and family caregivers feel when a person with dementia behaves differently and/or displays behaviours that are extreme or socially unacceptable in a public place. I am sure many of you have felt this judgement with someone you know or love. I never feel embarrassed with what Dad does in public anymore and I am proud of him no matter what. I will also take him wherever I can regardless of what people think. It is not about me, it is about ‘his moment’.
The story about the swearing boy has changed me as a person so when I now see people behaving ‘a bit different’ I now think to myself ……
“…..is it dementia?…..”