Being judged by strangers tends to come hand in hand with being a parent. No matter what you do, someone out there will probably disagree and let you know in their own way.
Often it’s as innocuous as “shouldn’t she being wearing socks?” but there are other times when it’s not only hurtful, it’s shockingly cruel.
The mother of a child with autism recently posted this story on Twitter and gave us permission to share it here with you.
This is powerful. (Scroll down for a text version.)
Full transcript, edited for format:
I remember being at a out in public when my son was a bit younger, though still incredibly strong. He was having a meltdown, flailing on the ground, kicking, hurting, and screaming.
People were staring, gasping, the horrified looks on their faces as they watched to see how I would handle him. You see, in those moments, a parents mind is running a mile a minute.
Yes, we hear the screams, see the stares, hear the comments, etc. But what you don’t know is we’re thinking of ways to safely remove the child, how we can keep them and the younger sibling safe when walking thru a busy parking lot with bags of groceries.
You don’t see the tears falling down our cheeks and feel the burn of our face as complete strangers see your family at its most vulnerable.
So many people stand around, staring, perhaps feeling helpless, or even relieved that they are not you.
The comments people have made to us, to my son-to my face, is enough to fill every shelf at The Jerk Store:
“Not my kids.”
“Why is he like that?”
“Here’s an idea; stop spoiling him.”
“Just take him home.”
Now, I’d like to believe that if people know better, they do better.
If people knew what a parent needs in those desperate, difficult times of a public meltdown, they’d want to help. It’s not rocket science, really. It involves compassion.
Just be kind. Be supportive. You are not the expert. The parent knows their child better than you do.
Ask the parent what they need.
Hold the door for them.
Carry bags to the car.
If you don’t have the time, or your own hands are full, A nod of support might be the best thing anyone has done for this parent. A pat on the shoulder of “I understand and it’s ok” might be enough to prevent the parent from feeling totally deflated and defeated.
Over the last 15 yrs, we’ve encountered some really sh*tty people. A lot, actually. However, it’s those few people in those desperate, humbling, raw moments, that I’ll never forget.
There may be fewer stories of kindness, but they made the most impact.
Parenthood can be incredibly isolating and the last thing that a mother (or father) needs, is to feel judged when they are doing their best. Please share this story so that we can all know better, and do better. Thank you.
Note: The mother who shared this story asked that we not include her name.