Saturday, February 25, 2012

I Don't Know What Jesus Would've Done, But I'm Not Sure it Was This

This is going to be long.

This morning, we went to Monkey Joe's right near our house, a kid's place with lots of inflatables and some other activities. If you remember, it's where Cole had his birthday party last August, and we've been there many times since.

MJ's requires that kids wear socks on the "jumps" (as they call the inflatables), which means that we have to take off Dean's orthotics as well, since they're so slick on the bottom. Even with gripper socks, Dean slides all over the place and it's really not safe for him. So we usually just take his socks off. I know, I'm that mom who is bucking the rules, but I'm not doing it just because I think socks are annoying (even though I do), I'm doing it for my kid's safety. No one has ever said anything about this.

But I feel bad about breaking the socks rule. I mean, it's not like I'm asking them to keep everybody off of one jump so my kid can go on it, or let my kid go around licking all the rides because he has a licking fixation. But it's still breaking the rules. So today we tried leaving Dean's socks on. He was running through MJ's and slipped and smashed his face on a piece of wall that was jutting out. :( He has a shiner on his left eye. Stinks. I felt like kicking myself for thinking it was ok for him to have the socks on. So off they went.

Dean recovers, wants to keep playing (this kid is a serious trooper), and so on to another jump we go. A "referee" (person who works there) asked if I had socks for Dean. I explained the situation and asked if it was ok that he just not wear socks. The ref said he would ask his manager and let me know, but it probably would be fine. I told him we'd have to leave if Dean couldn't go without socks. The ref comes back, says the manager says Dean has to wear socks and we could have our money back if we want to leave. Wait, what??? I ask to speak with the manager.

I bring Dean to the manager, calmly explain the situation, show him Dean's eye, and say that I know why they have policies in place, but can we make an exception for someone's safety? This isn't a small child who is still learning to navigate the jumps, this is a kid who is just inherently UNSTABLE on socks because of his muscle tone, no matter what the surface.

The manager proceeds to tell me multiple times that socks are required, there will be no exceptions, and why socks are required. Yes, I know why socks are required, but how can my kid play here if he can't be safe, even with our direct supervision? I explained that we love MJ's, we've been here so many times, had my kid's (way too expensive) party here, can they show some respect to us as loyal customers and help us out? Nope.

And with that, my friend, you have activated Mama Bear. I told him that this was discrimination. Yup, the D word. It was appropriate. I told - ok, let's be honest, at this point, I'm raising my voice and am borderline yelling - him that I would be letting other people know that Monkey Joe's in Midlothian discriminates against people with special needs. I would contact the local news or whatever else it took to let them know that this was NOT acceptable. I told him that if Dean wasn't welcome, then my entire family and I would be leaving. We packed up the boys, who were now thoroughly confused, and left. I.was.liiiiiiiiiiiiivid.

In the car, Cole asked me why we had to leave Monkey Joe's. This was a tricky thing, as we haven't even yet had a conversation yet with him about why some things are just plain different for Dean. He hasn't asked, because to him Dean is just his brother, so we haven't mentioned it. Bob told him that they wouldn't let Deano be safe by playing without his socks, and so we had to go. Cole shook his head and said, "I don't know why they wouldn't do that." I said, "I don't know either, bud."

So we went to Kroger to get some groceries we needed anyway, and obviously I was just so saddened by the whole event. While there, Bob and I chatted about going back and trying to talk with the manager again. Our kids love it there and while I will not stand for discrimination, we want them to have great places to play.

So this time, Bob (who was sitting with the boys having snack when I had the conversation with the manager the first time) went in and talked with the manager. The manager was not apologetic, but explained that they actually do special events at MJ's for kids with special needs. Bob told him that it was a justice issue that kids with special needs need to be not just relegated to certain events, but should be able to play with all other kids. And that it's hard to have someone tell you "no" to that request.

The manager said that if Dean needed to wear his braces and shoes on the jumps, that would be fine as long as they sanitized the bottom of his shoes when he came in. Wait, what??? Bob asked him why he didn't say that the first time, and the manager said he didn't get a chance. Umm, he certainly had the chance to tell me again and again that he could not accommodate the socks request and other explanations about why and what-have-you. So we came back. I may have sobbed in the car and then inside the door for a few minutes, but we came back. The boys played and had a great time.

I'm still not sure what to make of the whole issue. I'm certainly drained from it. I can't say I was 100% in the right, but I was definitely not 100% in the wrong, either. You can mess with me, but

UPDATE!! This evening, I contacted Monkey Joe's corporate, as well as the local news. Monkey Joe's called me back within the hour and profusely apologized for the incident today. They said that they completely overreacted and asked us please to come back. I mentioned my disappointment in the differences between how they responded to me versus Bob and they said that it was not right and apologized again. They said this will never happen again, that our child's safety is first and foremost and they want everyone of all abilities to be able to play at Monkey Joe's. :)


Sarah said...

Sometimes I think we are the same person. And that person is obviously not Jesus. lol!

I'm so glad Dean is able to play at MJs now. What a jerk that guy was for not telling you that in the first place! grrr.

Elizabeth Johnson Phillips said...

Augh. First, I love you. And I imagine my Mama Bear is similar to yours. That fast pumping heart, the struggle to keep you hands from shaking, thoughts racing. We talked about my Mama Bear moment at the playground. A. You were right to be mad. B. I think our intelligence, quick wits, and ability to articulate our thoughts so well can actually inhibit our ability to be heard. We state our case so clearly and quickly and the person who's wronged us, knowing they can't spar on our level, just shuts down. Does that make sense? So perhaps it wasn't that the manager responded to Bob because he was a man, but because he'd had time to consider another option and compose his thoughts. Or it is also possible he's a complete douche-canoe. :) Hard to tell.
Does that make sense?

Ali Foley Shenk said...

Sarah, you crack me up. :)

Elizabeth, yes, that does make sense. It's funny because I've never thought of myself as someone who's able to articulate my thoughts well during a confrontation because my emotions are just alllll over the place. I was thinking about you afterwards because we had *just* talked about this and I had just finished telling Bob about the wonderful Christian teaching tool we'd discussed.

Nico S. said...

Ali, I just read this today because of your other post (i have no idea how i missed it i follow you regularly) and it just brought me to tears. Being in the industry, I honestly don't know how people in customer service get away with being so close-minded sometimes. It is their job to bend rules because not everyone fits that mold. It saddens me that you had to go through this. I commend your strength to stand up for your boy! Lots of people would just give up and try to get over it.
Bob is a great dad for going back in there! It was a situation that should not have been left alone and I am glad that the company knew that their management was wrong.

Ali Foley Shenk said...

Thanks, Nico! I think in the end it is more encouraging to know that so many "get" this instead of just those who don't. We are thankful.