Hearing the Pain

Missy took a spill the other day.

Not a serious one. Just a hard landing on bathroom tile, the kind that leaves your arm sore for a while afterward. No breaks. No bruises.

It still makes you wince, though. Or should. It’s part of being a guardian, a parent, an adult. When you care for someone, you don’t want to see them hurt.

I only wish every adult felt the same way.

My mind’s been on the topic lately thanks to Stuart Chaifetz. You’ve probably heard the story. Like me and my wife, Chaifetz has someone who needs special care – for us, a developmentally disabled adult, for him, his autistic 10-year-old son, Akian.

Chaifetz got worried when Akian started lashing out in school, even hitting a teacher and his aide. Six months of meetings failed to uncover why. Chaifetz knew he needed to know what was happening at school, but Akian lacked the ability to tell him.

So he put a wire on his son. Secretly tape-recorded his school day.

The result horrified him. Adults yelling at the students, mocking the students, humiliating and threatening the students. One told Akian “you are a bastard” and warned him “Go ahead and scream, because guess what? You’re going to get nothing …until your mouth is shut.”

“What I heard on that audio was so disgusting, vile, and just an absolute disrespect and bullying of my son, that happened not by other children, but by his teacher, and the aides — the people who were supposed to protect him,” Chaifetz said in a video that has shot across the Internet.”They were literally making my son’s life a living hell.”

It’s an anger I can feel echo inside my own soul.

I hate bullies. Old, young, in between. I endured too much of it myself as a kid to ever want to see it in another. It’s a pain that makes days something to be feared instead of anticipated, a trial you don’t dare talk about until you have to.

And when the victim literally can’t talk about it, that is the lowest of the low.

Heather and I have cared for Missy the Wonderful for about a year now. I know that if we ever sniffed the slightest hint of mistreatment by someone else, we’d be on it like a shot, doing what we had to to pin it down and turn it off.

When you care for someone, you don’t want to see them hurt.

But how do you know?

How do you ever know?

It’s a simple answer and a hard one at the same time. To quote a character from Missy’s Harry Potter books, it takes “Constant vigilance!” Granted, you don’t need the paranoia of Mad-Eye Moody … but it all starts with watchfulness.

Whoever you care for, be it a child or a charge, nobody knows them like you. How can they? You’ve lived with them. You love them. You’ve seen them at their best and their worst.

And you know – or can know – when something seems wrong. Even without words. It can be a change in mood or behavior like Akian’s. Or maybe a wariness around a particular person. Or anything that silently screams to you “This is not normal behavior. Something is going on.”

Maybe you’ll be wrong sometimes. But better to be careful without need, than to need care and not show it. A sad truth, perhaps, but real.

If you heard a crash and an “Ouch!” in the bathroom, you’d check it out. This isn’t any different.

When you care for someone, you don’t want to see them hurt.

And let’s face it. There’s going to be enough painful falls in life as it is.

Nobody needs to be pushed.