Editor’s note: We continue to pray as a CatholicMom.com family for the recuperation of precious little Fulton Poppe, for Cassandra, and for the entire Poppe family. LMH
The child’s piercing scream rattled every parent in the McDonald’s Playroom and all eyes turned toward the damsel in distress. There, within the plastic maze of tubes and slides, was a little girl, perhaps 4 or 5 years old, her back plastered against the clear plexiglass ball that gently swayed over our heads. The shrieks continued. Something was blocking her way. Something monstrous. Terrifying.
Lord help me, it was my son.
Fulton stood at the mouth of the bubble, just looking at the poor girl, completely confused.
Her mother coaxed the girl past my son and through the tubes until she was safely in her arms. “Mommy! His face is so scary!” she sobbed.
And that was the end of the fun at McDonalds for two poor souls that day: for the little girl, and for me.
Fast forward a few weeks later when again Fulton was playing, but this time it was at Burger King. He has always been a bit frightened of slides, but on this day, a huge milestone was reached. He went down the swirly slide all by himself! But somewhere along the way, his hat fell off. After many hugs and kisses, I sent him back up to find his hat which we keep on because he still has many wounds that are thickly bandaged on his scalp. Much to my relief, another child found it and handed it to him. We both thanked him and Fulton went back up to conquer the slide once again.
All of a sudden, that familiar sinking feeling pulled my heart down to my stomach. Fulton was crying. I could not see where he was, but I heard his little voice, completely distraught. “Give me my hat back!” he cried. “That’s not nice!” More sniffling. “Give me my hat!”
I walked to the maze and called to the invisible foe, “Could you please give him his hat back?”
“Fulton, do you have your hat?”
“No,” he whimpered.
So I said a little firmer this time, hoping the child’s mother would hear, “Give him his hat back. He needs it!”
Soon, but not soon enough, he slid down the slide and into my arms. Fun over. I strapped him into his carseat, trying sum up what had just happen in the most simplest of terms. “That boy did not do a very nice thing, huh.”
Fulton sighed and shook his head.
“His guardian angel was very sad. But I am so proud of you, “ I continued. “You were very brave to tell him to give it back. And you did not get into a fight. That’s my big boy!” I said as cheerfully and I could, and kissed the top of his precious little head.
Fulton is a fighter at heart, and recovered quickly. I, on the other hand, have still not recovered from this, and I think a part of me never will. The two episodes made me realize that no matter how normal Fulton is to us, he will never be normal to the rest of the world.
How does a child deal with the social pressures as he grows? According to the therapist at the hospital, he is progressing extraordinarily well emotionally, and for that I am thankful. But as we bring him out into the world more and more, I wonder what more I can do for him? We have our basic lines rehearsed. “I was burned but God is fixing it. My daddy saved me!” Most times, children accept this simple answer and everyone plays together. But other times, such as the times I have described above, things do not turn out so well.
I want him to have confidence enough to know he can stand up for himself one day, but I also want him to know he can come to me for protection.
How much do you intervene when other children cause trouble?
Do we practice many different responses to possible questions he could get or do we keep it short and sweet?
How honest shall we be with a 4-year-old boy to prepare him for a lifelong pain of trying to get people to see beyond the scars?
It is enough to make a mother cry. And so I write this article, looking for tips and words of wisdom from other parents whose children do not fall under the ‘normal’ category. How do you help your children cope? What, I plead, is a mother to do?
Copyright 2013 Cassandra Poppe