It Won’t Be the Last Time

As the saying goes, the first step is often the hardest. And, true enough, I found myself over-analyzing this “first” post for the new and improved SpecialParent. “But it’s the first post,” I told myself. “It should be extra special.”

Maybe. Or maybe not. It’s a post just like every post. But more importantly, it’s a post to get the ball rolling. And, truth be told, it’s really not the first post since there were a few earlier versions of SpecialParent.

And so, to make things  a little easier on myself, I am going to post an old post from one  of these earlier versions.

It Won’t Be the Last Time

I am surprised, actually, that it’s taken this long. I am not a pessimist. However, that said, there is no shortage of thoughtless or downright mean-spirited people on this planet. So it surprised me that it has taken this long for someone to make an inappropriate comment regarding my daughter. It all started with a cat.

I am the not-so-proud owner of three cats. They seemed like a great idea before my wife and I had children and a house that we cared about. These days, it one is not vomiting on the floor, another one is scratching a couch and, little by little, they seem to be driving us mad.

So, here we were. It was Saturday morning and I was looking forward to the day. Suddenly, we notice our youngest cat limping due to a wound on its back leg. It appeared that it was bitten by something….probably another cat. After several phone calls, I was at a Cat Hospital with the cat along with my two daughters since my wife had a bridal shower to go to.

Our appointment was for twelve noon. Unfortunately, we were forced to wait necarly 1 1/2 hours in the waiting room. The kids were great. But, kids are kids and little by little their patience started waning.

My daughter Ava is developmentally delayed and is essentially non-verbal due to severe speech apraxia. Due to her size, most people assume that she can speak and will naturally and innocently ask her questions such as “How old are you? What’s your name?” I then gently tell them that she has great difficulty speaking but that she can sign. Most people typically show either empathy, discomfort, or a combination of both.

On Saturday, Ava was making her usual sounds “ahhh…ahhh…..ahhh…” while pointing at a middle-aged man sitting in the waiting room.

He responded, ‘I don’t understand baby talk, kid. You have to speak. Don’t be shy. Speak up.”

It was an innocent mistake. Slightly perturbed, I responded, “She can’t speak.”

“Why not? She doesn’t want to?”

“No. She wants to. She just can’t.”


I could tell he felt bad. And then, I felt bad for him because I can imagine how he felt. He said he was sorry and stumbled over the right words. I reassured him by telling him that it was ok and that he need not apologize. After he received his cat and paid his bill he approached me and apologized again. Again, I told him that it was ok.

“It’s alright, man. Don’t sweat it. Seriously. It’s ok.”

The funny thing is that I felt bad and slightly saddened for him. He wasn’t mean-spirited. A little thoughtless, perhaps. But, it was an innocent mistake. And so, I let it drop.

A short while later, the receptionist asked, “How old is she?!” I responded by saying “She is nearly 4 but she has difficulty speaking due to a condition called speech  apraxia. She also has cognitive delays.”

She responded, “Oh… I was wondering. Because she looks so big!”

Yep. You got that right. She’s big for a little girl who should be speaking and who should be acting like other 4 year olds. Welcome to my world, kid.

As I left the vet a short while later, I thought to myself, “This is the first time that I’ve had this sort of experience but it surely won’t be the last. Toughen up and get used to it.”

Note: At the time of this writing, I had three  cats. Three cats has  become two as one recently succumbed to thyroid disease.

Author: Kevin Mulligan

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  • Donna Maringelli Tine

    I’m sure that will be something you encounter more then you would like and I’m afraid there will be a day when I’ll be the person putting my foot in my mouth. But I will hope that in a situation like that, the parent will handle like you did – matter of factly explain the situation. There was no way for the man to know – and although hindsight is 20-20 and he probably wishes he said something else, you also taught him something. Maybe next time he’ll be a bit more compassionate with his choice of words!

    Good luck with the site Kevin.

  • Kevin Mulligan

    @facebook-686755699:disqus Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Donna. Clearly, we all have said things we wish we hadn’t. I think I am especially gifted at putting my foot in my mouth. But hopefully, as you stated, we all learn something each times it happens. I know that my daughter has certainly opened my eyes to the world around me. When I see a child having a meltdown in a public place I don’t automatically think, “Oh…what a brat!” as I might have in the past. Now I know enough to realize that I don’t have a clue as to what the real cause is. Maybe the child is simple having a rough day as we all do. Or perhaps, there are other forces at play. One simply never knows.Along these lines, I can only imagine what the fellow customers of my local grocery store were thinking the other day when my daughter was shrieking her 200 db scream as I ran through the store, with her in the cart and my old daughter struggling to keep up with me, trying to get my shopping done. One would have thought that she was dying based upon her blood curdling cries! But alas, she wasn’t. She was simply telling me in her own little way that she had her fill of grocery shopping. As the saying goes, “Live and learn.” Thanks again for stopping by. More good things to come.