I’m nervous about hitting publish on this for fear of making people that I know and care about feel uncomfortable (or angry). But I feel like that’s also part of why I need to write my feelings and hit publish. Because I feel uncomfortable and sometimes angry and I want to change peoples thinking – and/or perception.
The other day I read a post from Laurie about her son Jake. On it I commented the foll:
- “I hear you loud and clear. I am in the same boat with my now 7 year old. People see a bad kid or a parent who needs to discipline her kid but most of the time that’s not at all what’s happening. It hurts. I often see on Facebook where people (I know and care about) make statuses about what they would do if their child ever behaved the way they just saw a kid behaving in a store. Or how back in their day they would never dream of talking to their parent the way they just saw a child do. I always try to respectfully steer them away from that kind of thinking. I will say things like “I understand why that’s your initial reaction but judging another persons parenting is tricky business. You don’t know anything about their story or what lead them to the point that you saw.” I like to think it makes a difference but I don’t think it does because people will then comment back saying things like “I get why YOU are saying that but …(blah blah blah)”. They always have a but and that deflates me.
Sorry this was so long. It touched a nerve.”
I grew up in a home that was BIG on manners and respect and working hard and maintaining a positive public image. I understand the value of having well behaved children. I was not raised to feel entitled or to be demanding. I am doing my best to carry that on with my own children. I do not have any intention of spoiling my children with material things or giving in to their whining or pouting.
BUT … and this is a BIG BUT (lol @ big but) … There is a difference between having ungrateful, bratty kids and dealing with a child who doesn’t understand social expectations or who hasn’t yet learned the proper way to handle his emotions or who is melting down due to a sensory issue or who has no other way to communicate their needs/feelings when they are tired or hungry.
By all accounts, Jay looks “normal”. He very often acts in a way that others would deem “normal.” Cute and charming and funny even. I’ve been out with him and had strangers make comments to me about another family that I’m sure they would not have made had they known that Jay was autistic.
Even when you have experience with autism (or other disorders with similar characteristics) it is very difficult to tell if a child is just plain rude or if there is some underlying issue. It is damn near impossible to tell the difference when you have none or limited experience.
I understand how things can look. But looks can be very VERY deceiving and it does no-one any good to jump to conclusions or make judgment calls and then blast those parents (or children) on social media.
When you say “If that were me … this is what I’d do …” or “There’s no way my child would ever … “ or “If I did what that kid did …” or when you post a video of a child “misbehaving” or hitting their parent or screaming because they’re not getting the candy bar they have asked for you are passing judgment that you have NO BUSINESS passing. I’m not even sure what the point of posting those comments/videos is. Is it entertainment? Do you think some bad parent out there will read it and suddenly have an epiphany about all the things they are doing wrong? Does it make you feel better about yourself (and your own children)?
I’m NOT saying there aren’t kids who couldn’t use some better parenting. I’m NOT saying there aren’t kids whose parents don’t teach them proper manners or whose parents haven’t taught them to be respectful.
What I AM saying, is that there’s no way for you to know which is which when you see them for a minute in a store or on a play ground. It’s not right or fair to judge someones entire life based on ONE situation or interaction you saw.
I could go on and on about all the reasons that a child might be having a particularly bad day but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that instead of judging or making comments or video taping what is obviously not a good moment in time for that family, most parents could use some more support. WE could use some help. We could use a kind word of encouragement. We could use you letting us go ahead of you in the line so we can get our screaming child out of there quicker. We would really prefer not to be bashed (including virtually and secretly) for one moment in our parenting lives.
For me, and I think for most parents and care givers, whatever disgust you are feeling at our bad parenting, we are feeling worse. We are sad that our children are hurting and there is nothing we can do about it. We are ashamed that other people are witnessing this. We are scared that our children will never learn how to control their emotions and we are worried about what will happen when they are older and stronger. We have already questioned our decision to take the kid to wherever it was that you saw us. We are beating ourselves up wondering what we should have done differently before things got out of control. We don’t want to draw public attention to our child in a time of pain and we don’t want to disturb other people. We are tired. Lord are we tired.
I’m not alone in this. I read it all the time from other moms who have children who struggle socially.
I really wish you would read some of what other moms have to say on this. I know there will still be those people who feel like I’m making excuses for badness or who think I’m being overly emotional and sensitive. I assure you I’m not. I know how I raise my kids and what I teach them. I know that most of the time they are polite and sweet and we can get through an outing incident free. I also know that there have been times when Jay has thrown a fit in the supermarket and I’ve had to leave my groceries there and physically drag him out as he cried and screamed mean things at me. I know there have been times when he’s pointed in my face and yelled at me that I can’t tell him no and that he wants whatever it is that he wants RIGHT NOW. I know there have been times when, to an onlooker, it would seem like I have no control over my child and that he needs a good beating perhaps to get him back in line. All those strangers couldn’t have been more wrong in their assessment of us.
Below are just a couple of posts written by other moms that I remember and I thought would be a good back up to this.
I wrote the following post in June 2012. Jay no longer wears diapers and has stopped eating cookies altogether. But beyond that, not much else has changed. He is better about it, but sharing is still hard for him and he still tantrums when he doesn’t get his own way. The I-Pad still goes everywhere. They are less frequent and it’s easier to calm him down but we still deal with meltdowns for reasons we didn’t see coming. This is not an easy road and these are not easy behaviours to curb. Cut parents some friggin slack. Most of us are DOING THE BEST WE CAN and what may look like a bad parenting decision to you may be a reason to celebrate to someone else.
P.S. I’d be so grateful if you would add the link for any other posts that jump into your mind in the comments so myself as well as other people can read about yours or other peoples experience.
P.P.S. I’m sorry if I’ve hurt any feelings or stepped on any toes. That’s not my intention.