Parenting Experts

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*DISCLAIMER:  I consulted a few other autism moms before I posted this one.  I felt like I was maybe a little mean it, and I don't want people to think I'm mean.  After talking, I realized that this is an issue with other families too, so I think it needs to be said!
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I'm not one to brag, but this one deserves to be shared with you:

I have met every single parenting expert in the tristate area.

I am fairly certain that I have met most of the "easily offended" people in our nation as well.

Now, before you get jealous, let me say this:  I don't necessarily know them personally.  Some were just run-ins down at the Walmart.  Some were on public transit while at Disney World last year.  Some are family, and I'm thankful to have these experts on the ready for unsolicited advice.

Okay, you caught me.  I'm being sarcastic....but don't we all know these people?

The person who rolls their eyes when something goes down in public?  You know the one, like she knows how to "fix your problem" and you are obviously an inferior human being for not having the answer?

Or the family member who has advice like, "He needs a whippin' for that screamin'.  That'd stop him."  (No, actually, it wouldn't, but anywho...)

Oh, and this is my favorite....the social media parenting expert/sensitive sally who is easily offended by your child's behavior.  Two birds/one stone for this one!

In all seriousness, I know I am being mean and hateful here.  I know that this post is not Christ-like, nor is it something that I'm proud of...but it is true.  This is my side of the story.

I am the first to admit that I don't have this parenting thing figured out.  I don't think anyone ever does.  We all just fake it until we make it.  It is hard, though, to feel like people are judging you.  Do you know what is even worse than that, though?  Feeling like people are judging your child. 

That is what it feels like when people say things like, "he needs a whippin' for that screaming."  Or when they roll their eyes as he has a meltdown at the grocery store.  They are essentially saying that his behavior is "bad" with these words and actions.  He is a "bad kid" for having a meltdown.  But he is not being bad.  He honest-to-goodness can't help it.

We were at the airport last year.  We had already waited in line for over 30 minutes.  Colin just cannot wait or stand still.  We got up to the desk.  He started to scream.  A manager had to come over to help the man helping us.  Colin screamed again.  The manager kept making faces to show her disgust.  Suddenly she looks at Curtis and says, "Can't you do something to make him stop?  I have a headache."  He told her that he has special needs and has a hard time waiting.  And in Colin's defense, he had done extremely well up until that point and it was so hot in that airport.  Mama Bear did not hear her comment, and everyone knew not to tell me until it was too late for me to say something.  I think I would've had her head.  We will never fly Allegiant ever again because of this woman's insensitivity and rudeness.

I got into a little social media debate with a stranger via a mutual friend's Facebook account once.  This gentleman was saying he could handle autistic kids, "but really can't stand that screaming and has to get away from it asap."  Here is a little secret that I'll share with you:

I don't like the screaming either.

I hope and pray that it stops.

If he screams too close to my ear, I can feel my eardrum vibrating and I literally feel sick because it hurts so badly.  

You, Sir Stranger, might have to hear that scream for 10 minutes as you stroll down the bread aisle at Wal-Mart.  I will hear it 50 more times today....and possibly tomorrow too....you get the point.  So excuse me if I take offense to your comment that "you can't stand it."  In the famous words of Kimmy Schmidt, "you can do anything for 10 minutes."  

I do feel so bad when we have a bad outing.  Despite my negative tone in this post, I am thinking of you and how you are responding to my child's actions.  For the longest time, we didn't take him out because I feared these situations, the stares, the judgement.  I knew that we were disrupting everyone's day, and I felt bad for that, so I avoided it.  I constantly found myself apologizing to strangers and trying to explain Colin to them.

Then I realized that we couldn't avoid going places forever.  He needed to do these things if I ever wanted him to "get used to it."  My thought process has done a complete 180.  I think of my son's needs, not yours.  I simply cannot care what other people think about me.  About him.  I have to do what is best for him and what is best for our family.  I also realized that I don't owe anyone an explanation.

Honestly, I have always been a people pleaser, so this is something I am still working on.  I do care what you think.  I will likely think about it later and wonder how I could have handled the situation better.  Should I have said something?  I fancy myself an educator, so I always love a good teaching moment too!

I have just learned to keep my focus on him.  I honestly try to not even look at other people when we are out.  One, because I am calculating his next move, and the move after that....but also, because I know how I feel when people look at us.  I always think they are judging.  I don't want people to think that I am doing that, so I just ignore others.

My mom is a people watcher.  She will say, "did you see.." nope.  I didn't.  She can't understand that about me.  She tells me that people probably think I'm rude and that I come off as "a snob."  I don't see it that way, but maybe she is right.

I still have anxiety about going anywhere with the boys.  I break out in a sweat before I even enter a store.  Will Colin try to run?  Will he scream?  Will I be able to get these two little items I need before he's just done?  I always feel like I require a lot out of Finn in these situations, which just gives me something else to worry about later.  Curtis can load the boys up and take them anywhere alone, and he doesn't seem to worry one bit.  He's a good dad and the calm to my crazy.

With a child on the spectrum, there is no "just" anymore.

"Just getting some groceries."

"Just going to church."

"Just visiting a friend."

Everything is planned with a strategy.  You have contingency plans and back ups.  You have reinforcements and escape plans.

I know what you're thinking.

"You know so many parenting experts.  If only you would heed their advice, you would have no reason to worry."


For real though, I know most people are not saying or doing things maliciously.  Except that woman from the airport...

My past experiences have taught me a lot about what to say, or rather, what not to say to people.  I've compiled a short list for you to help in any future interactions you might have might with fellow humans:

1.  Never comment on having babies.

"When are you having a baby?"

"Don't you want kids?"

"It's time for you to have a baby."

You have absolutely no idea what that person is going through.  They might want babies so very badly, but they are infertile.  Having babies isn't in their control at all, so please don't treat it like it is.  She could be experiencing a miscarriage as you speak, and this question cuts deeper than you could ever imagine.  Yeah, been there.  Done that.  These questions cause more pain than you know (unless you've been there).

2.  Any type of parenting advice, unless directly asked for, is usually not warranted.  If you see someone having a bad day, they know about it.  I promise.  They don't need you to be Judgy-Jan and draw negative attention to it.  That only makes them feel worse.  Just offer a smile or a kind word.  Or offer to help.  Or ignore it entirely.  So many kind options to choose from here!

 You raised your kids.  Or maybe you are a professional who works with kids.  I am sure that you were/are great at it.  Here is the kicker, though:  every child is different.  Just because something worked for your child, doesn't mean it works for every child.  Just remember that before you start to offer that advice.

3.  If you don't have kids, and you think, "If I had kids, they would never do that..."  That will come back to bite you!  Your child, no matter how wonderful and perfect, will still be human.  They will embarrass you in public.  They will do the things that you said they would never do.  In those moments, I hope you remember this post and have yourself a little laugh as you realize that there is no such thing as a parenting expert, and we are all just learning as we go!







Comments

  1. As a mom with a child on the spectrum I couldn't of said that better myself. It gets even more interesting when your child is only 10 and looks likes hes 13 or 14.

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    Replies
    1. Yes! That's why, if you don't know them personally, you have no idea what is going on nor can you have any certain expectations. That's why autism is so tricky. Because, you know, "he doesn't LOOK autistic..." Ha!!

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