Let me start of by saying, the life of a mama isn’t easy. Special needs kids or not, we’re constantly faced with judgement, questioning, criticism…you name it, we get it. From strangers, from other mamas, from our family and friends. It’s hard! Breast feed, and you’re told to cover up in public, or nurse in the bathroom or told that you’re being indecent. Give you’re baby formula, and you’re a horrible mother for not breast feeding. Use disposable diapers, you’re polluting the planet, use cloth, you’re crazy. I could go on and on. You get the idea.
Add in a couple of boys prone to epic meltdowns, and let the judging begin!
Anyway. I do my best to ignore the open judgement we get. I try not to make eye contact, or I try to smile at the person. But, inside, I’m screaming.
And then, something will happen that reminds me that I might just be doing ok at this parenting thing. Yes, my boys act out, yes, they melt in the middle of the store/doctors office/playground/park…anywhere and everywhere.
Our world isn’t the same as theirs is. For us, going out to get groceries, or run other errands isn’t a big deal, we go where we need to go, and we’re done. We might have a list of stores we need to go to, but, we can see that we don’t need to go to all of the ones we had decided on before leaving the house. No big deal.
But, to them, the world is loud, confusing, overwhelming and not always accepting of differently abled children (or adults for that matter). If I had a dollar for every time some one has offered ‘helpful’ advice, we’d be set for life. We get it all the time…’it’s your fault they’re the way they are because: we don’t discipline them enough, we spoil them, we cater to them, we held/hold them too much, we wear them’…the list goes on. We also get our fair share of ‘They’re just boys, all boys do that, they’ll grow out of it, it’s just a phase’…
We don’t face this as much with Dj, because he’s a naturally happy baby, and it takes a lot for him to come unglued. Aidan on the other had, comes unglued quite often when we’re out. It’s too noisy, there’s to many people, we have to add or omit a stop in our day. He is a very routine oriented child, and we do our best to adhere to that, but, sometimes, things happen.
A couple of days ago, I had to run a few errands, I told Aidan where we were going, in what order, etc. We had J with us, since she spent the night the previous night. So, our day was, go to the post office, drop J off, go to McQuades for a few groceries, then Walmart then home. I told him, before we left the house, that I was just running into the post office really quickly, and he was going to stay in the van with J and Dj. Let the games begin, and may the odds be ever in your favor. That day, the odds were not in my favor. He had an epic meltdown the entire time I was in the post office. Still screaming when I got back in the van. I should have know then to cut the trip short (especially since the boys didn’t get a nap the day before), but decided to press on. Dropped of J at home, and headed for McQuades. All was right with the world. I got the boys in the cart, and headed in. It was all down hill from there. Aidan saw a ‘car car’ cart, and immediately wanted me to switch them over to that. I explained that we needed more stuff then what would fit in the tiny basket on that cart. You would have thought I had killed his puppy (and he doesn’t even have a puppy!) I told him he could either sit and let mommy shop, or we were going home. Obviously, neither of those was an acceptable answer to him, so he screamed and whined and yelled and cried. I could feel the stares of all of the people around us burning the back of my neck. I continued to try to calmly and patiently get him back from the brink of a complete overload meltdown…I was failing at getting him to calm down, so I decided to just push through, ignore the stares and whispers, and just power through. I went to the bakery to get a loaf of bread, and the nice lady gave each of the boys a cookie. Aidan picked his out, and she gave the same one to Dj. Aidan took one bite, and lost it because ‘he changed his mind’ (totally normal behavior for him. The nice lady gave them each one of the cookies Aidan wanted the second time. We went on about our business, and as we got to the deli, he realized, he really did want the original cookie he had picked. I picked him up and explained to him that he can’t always change his mind and get a million different things, because he changes his mind. I knew we were close to his point of no return. After a minute, I came up with and idea. I told him I would get him a bag of cookies, and it would sit with him in the cart. He was not allowed to open it, but, if he could make it through the rest of the trip without screaming/crying/freaking out, he could have the cookies. He agreed, so we went back to the bakery. I asked the lady for 6 of the cookies he wanted, and as she handed them to me, I asked Aidan what the deal was. He repeated it to me, I gave him the cookies, and he seemed to settle down. It was then that the lady looked at me with ‘those’ eyes…special needs parents know the eyes I mean. She kinda moved away from his ear shot and asked ‘Does he have high functioning autism.’ I explained that both boys had sensory processing disorder and that, yes, we believe he is high functioning. She leaned over a bit more and said, my son is high functioning, I get it. You’re doing great mama, and it does get better.’ At first I was relieved. Someone else understood!! And wasn’t judgemental about it. It made my heart happy.
But, at the same time, this is the first time some one has actually said the word out loud, without me saying something first. That means people are noticing that he’s ‘different’. That makes my mama heart sad. He doesn’t understand yet that he’s different from other kids his age, and I try my best to keep him from making that realization at this age. He doesn’t need to know that right now.
Anyway. I guess my point is…no matter how much I try to tell myself that I don’t care what others think of our children, or our parenting, I really do. The stares hurt, the whispers hurt, watching another mother pull her child away from mine hurts. It hurts a lot. And it scares me. Aidan doesn’t pick up on social ques very well, and I’m afraid that may cause him to be bullied as he gets older.
So…just be kind, ok? You never know what anyone else is going through, so lets end the mommy wars, and the sactimommy stuff, and just support each other as women and mothers!