How a girl with special needs accidentally helped my daughter become a better person

OMG, you’re not going to believe what just happened. So our family is shopping in this souvenir store, when suddenly I hear a big crash and then I hear Zoey screaming and crying, so of course I freak out and bolt across the store to find Zoey sobbing and holding her head. I’m looking around to see if a shelf fell on her head or something but everything looks in place so I hold her and tell her to catch her breath and tell me what happened. She finally manages to eek out a few words.

ZOEY: She punched (air suck) and kicked me in the stomach (air suck) and then I hit my head.

I immediately turn into an angry mama bear and I’m ready to tear someone apart. 

ME: Who punched and kicked you?!!

ZOEY: Her!

And I turn around to see what vicious person would punch and kick a little girl. Who would do this?! Ohhhhh. There are two women trying to calm down a girl with special needs. They’re holding her on the floor and apologizing to us and saying that she just got excited and how sorry they are. Okay, now I see. 

So I tell them not to worry about it a few times, that we understand, and I hold Zoey. 

ZOEY: Why would (air suck) she do that to me?!!

And I try to explain it to her.

ME: She didn’t mean to hurt you, sweetie. She just got excited. You know how some of the kids at your school have special needs?

ZOEY: Like Megan?

ME: Just like Megan. I know it still hurts–

ZOEY: A lot.

ME: I know, but just know that she didn’t mean to.

Zoey nods her head, and I hope she understands. And I hold her a little longer until the store manager comes back with a cold cloth for her head and even gives her a pink stuffed animal lobster to help her feel better. And we walk to the other side of the store to regroup away from the commotion. And that’s when Zoey turns to me and says something.

ZOEY: Mom?

ME: What honey?

ZOEY: I feel bad for her. 

Phew, she gets it. 

ZOEY: Can I go give this to her?

And she holds up her new lobster stuffie. Awwww. But I look across the store and see that they’ve managed to calm their daughter down, so I don’t think it’s a great idea for us to approach them again.

ME: Zoey, that is so sweet, but I think we should probably stay over here. We don’t want to upset her right?

ZOEY: Right. 

ME: But that is sooo nice of you to offer.

ZOEY: I don’t want her to feel bad. 

And as we walk out of the store Zoey yells to them across the store, “Don’t worry, I’m okay!” and I’m so proud. I know it’s her way of trying to help the girl feel better. And just like that, a very horrible moment turned into a very teachable moment. And even though Zoey got hurt, maybe it was worth it. Because now she’s a better person. 

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There are 10 comments for this article
  1. Krystal Mehrhof at 11:11 am

    I am a special needs sister and auntie and cousin. From all of my friends and family who only ever want people to try to understand, thank you! Thank you for using the moment to teach your daughter. It’s ok that you’re sad and that it hurts, but sometimes forgiveness and understanding are more important than an apology. Thank you for not making the situation worse for that other family. Just, thank you! ?

  2. Rose DeFelice at 11:15 am

    I have a son with autism who could’ve been that girl. I can’t praise and thank you enough for how you and your daughter responded. I’ve been that other mom. No doubt she went home and cried. It’s so hard raising a child who can have behavioral outbursts that can be unpredictable. The response from others either makes it so much worse or in this case restores your faith in humanity. ?

  3. Erin at 11:43 am

    As an educator and Aunt of an individual with autism and blown away by your kindness and Zoey’s selflessness! You are an amazing family! Thanks for posting!

  4. Laurie long at 11:43 am

    I am the mom of a magic daughter, who has had speech, motor and gross delays. It’s so hard for her to make friends because people just see the differences. They don’t stay long enough to see how beautiful she is or that she likes to play the same games. Your zoey has a big heart! I wish all people could see Hannah’s big heart.

  5. Jody D at 8:16 pm

    As a mom to an amazing non-verbal excitable little dude with autism, this made my heart soar and my face do a major ugly cry. You have raised an incredible young lady. Thank you.

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