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Cake Pop Conspiracy



Is it wrong to want to shove a Starbucks cake pop down a child’s throat?
            I admit that the problem is me and not the rest of the world. I know it is not normal to have thoughts like this, let alone to envision the act of violence in detail as I try to sip my almond milk latte and get some writing done.
I should have prefaced this by saying that as my own child, who has autism and is too rapidly approaching teenagerhood, gets older, I become less and less tolerant of “normal” children. They (and their parents) have many less than endearing qualities, especially the iKids of today, constantly plugged into some electronic device or other. As they scroll through their parents’ phones laughing, one of the parents will look over at me watching from my seat in the corner. Obviously not recognizing my scorn, the parent will make eye contact and flash that specific proud parent smile that silently says, ‘isn’t she smart?’ I always get the feeling I am supposed to be impressed with their tech savvy toddlers, by how well they can scroll through the videos on YouTube, by how their little thumbs know how to swipe, then type in the password. Have you ever seen a child who cannot walk navigate an iPhone?  It is neither endearing nor adorable. It’s sick. And the younger they are, the prouder the parent. I am not even fully convinced they are human. I want to scream across the café, No, I am not impressed. And if you unplugged your kid, I bet she wouldn’t know jack shit.  
I have often wondered why parents of normals seek this type of validation from complete strangers. I don’t recall feeling this way, even with my non-autistic son, but maybe it’s been too long for me to remember. I passed his most formative years pre-iPhone, thankfully. Maybe I am hypersensitive because of the stark contrast between this behavior and the way we parents of autistic children feel in public. The very last thing we want is the attention of fellow patrons. We just want to blend in, to go unnoticed.
            It’s on days like today, when I have to listen to them saying, Mommy, I want cake pop, their voices dripping with high fructose corn syrup (though I am sure the cake pops at this particular small-town-big-money Starbucks are free range and organic), that I want to vomit all over the floor. Then they start the dreaded Cake pop chant, Cake pop! Cake pop! Cake pop! Next they specify a color, though no one asked yet. Can’t they mobile order? Pink! I want a pink one, Mommy!  A PINK CAKE POP!  Feeding off their own energy, the footwork ensues, a universal, yet unchoreographed performance I (up) want (down) cake (up) pop! (down). The cadence quickens. Cakepop! (up), Cakepop! (down). Pinkcakepop (up). I envision smashing them with my umbrella like little piñatas, still attached at the umbilical iCord, mini pink cake pop bits spreading all over the floor, sprinkles still undigested, spraying my fellow patrons like shattering glass. I wonder why this behavior is socially acceptable and the stimming of our autistic kids is not.
I hear it over and over as I sit and try to concentrate on not hearing it. But it’s too late at that point. I can’t block it out. Cake pop! A hundred different times from a hundred different kids, all equally blond and curly-topped, all decked out in their designer rain jackets and matching Sperry’s, all desiring the same orb of gluten on a stick covered in thick icing, beckoning them from behind the bakery case. Someone at Starbucks is a marketing genius because almost every parent will gladly shell out two or three bucks for a bite of cake if it shuts their kids up, at least long enough for them to dose themselves with caffeine. I guess it’s for the same reason they hand their children their cell phones or have an iPad stashed in the diaper bag. Between bites of CAKE POP! the brats can always open an app or stream a Disney favorite. Every day is like a birthday party at Starbucks if you are under five. Have you seen them when there is a special holiday feature cake pop? Jesus.
Maybe there is cocaine in this particular confectionary. Heeeheeeheh me want cake pop! I consider tripping them to see if cake pops kill as they run by on their way to lay claim to the comfy chairs by the windows, still chanting incessantly. After the first bite, life becomes like a fairytale. Cakey poppey Mommy. Cakey Cakey Cakey…
            I don’t want to hear it on days like today, days when I am so immersed in my own…what’s the opposite of a birthday party? Well, whatever that is. Days when it’s raining, when I have PMS and I just finished a grueling workout to counteract the stress of having been attacked in the school lobby before 9 a.m. when I waited thirty seconds too long for a teacher to show up and escort Thomas to his special needs classroom. Days when I have had my eyes nearly gouged out on I-79, or shoes thrown at the back of my head on I-76. I don’t want to hear joyous toddler-glee. I don’t want to be silently asked for a smile of validation at the (mis)perception of intelligence. What I do want is for my psychiatrist to call back and tell me how to wean my son off Trazadone, but like so many people in his life, she seems to have given up on him when he didn’t fit her particular pet diagnosis, or when he grew past the age where stimming is still considered cute and nonconformist. My son has reached the age when everyone has stopped trying to answer the important questions. We just sit back and watch him deteriorate, retreat further and further into a world devoid of cake pops and cafes, a world made up instead of catatonia and compulsory movements. Days like today I cannot tolerate most of the outside world altogether, but for some reason, neurotypical kids under the age of five licking at the hardened frosting of pink cake pops while their stay at home mothers take selfies to send to Daddy at work, mistakenly assuming he cares what color the monumental cake pop du jour is hit me the hardest. I resent them. And I admit to resenting them. I admit to knowing it’s wrong for me to hate them. But I do. I hate them for all the opportunities they have that my son will never have. I hate them because my son won’t eat cake pops, pink or otherwise. As arbitrary and ridiculous and overpriced the ball of sugar stuck on a stick is, I wish with all of my being that he and I could go into a Starbucks and sit down and enjoy something from La Boulange and take pictures to send to hypothetical loved ones who would undoubtedly gush over how adorable he is. I too would swoon at even the falsest kindness of a stranger who would look at us with something other than annoyance. I too would take a picture. But I wouldn’t post it on Facebook or share it via Instagram. I would print it and hang it on my refrigerator next to the one of him during his last happy period, now nearly five years ago, long before cake pops were even invented. 

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