Standing Up Tall
By Samantha Taylor
We recently packed up our three kids and drove 90 minutes to Legoland. The ride itself, while pretty boring, went off without a hitch. I could tell that my oldest son was starting to get anxious, and was done being in the car- because around 70-minutes-in he kept asking for ETAs. We finally arrived, unloaded everyone- including the stroller for my youngest. We walked up to the entrance and waited about 10 minutes in the ticket line only to be told we had to go to the annual pass office to redeem the passes we had been gifted for Christmas. We then made our way to the annual pass office, and waited another 15 minutes.
When we finally approached the desk, it had been almost two and a half hours since we left our house. The kids were ready to get this party started. I had filled out most of the paperwork online. All that we needed to do was have our pictures taken. When it was time to take my 13-year-old’s photo, the employee looked down at his birth date and laughed while he said “Wow, you are short for thirteen.”
I’m certain that the employee didn’t know he was talking to a child with high-functioning Autism, or anxiety. I’m certain he didn’t know that our son has a huge inferiority complex about being shorter than everyone else in his class. He certainly didn’t know that our son suffers from an eating disorder that has probably stunted his growth. But the truth is, none of that matters. The employee, who we can just refer to as “shit for brains” (SFB for short) should never have said that- to any child. Period. I was left stunned, unsure how to handle it. My husband gave me that look that said “Please do not go crazy on this dude- he’s just a dumb kid.”
I looked at my son, who was crushed. He smiled for his picture, but I could tell that his feelings had been hurt. I could have left it alone. I could have said nothing. I think that the employee was just clueless, and not trying to be hurtful, but he needed to know. On the other hand, I didn’t want to make matters worse and embarrass my son by saying something about it in front of him. I waited until we were done, and the family started to walk away. I wanted to make sure that my son didn’t hear me, so as soon as I thought the coast was clear I turned around and quietly said to SFB “Hey buddy- the next time you think that a kid is short for his age, keep it to yourself.” From a few feet behind me I heard “Yeah! Because I’m sensitive about it!”
I was super proud.
Turns out I’m not as sly as I think I am- he had heard me. But I’m so glad that he did. I think we both learned a valuable lesson there in the Legoland annual pass office. I hope he realized that he has the right to defend himself, and that it can be done in a calm and dignified way. I now know that he can handle an idiot saying something negative towards him, and has the skills he needs to defend himself. He might be short in stature, but he’s grown leaps and bounds as far as I’m concerned. I also hope that SFB sticks to his script in the future with a simple “Welcome to Legoland.”
1-4-18 (7:30 PM) UPDATE: The fine folks at LegoLand got wind of this blog post and reached out to me. Not only did they wish to apologize, and will be talking to the employee, but they actually told me a lot about the recent changes they've made for families who have children with Autism. Take a look- http://www.llfblog.com/category/special-needs/
I only feel slightly bad for calling him SFB ;)