The end of May, beginning of June usually marks the start of summer and fun. This year, it’s been ugly, sad, and horrific. First, a gorilla is shot because a 4 year old got into his enclosure. Then, a terrorist shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. People use this to jump on both sides of the gun debate (myself included, I admit – I don’t like having lies go unchallenged). A family on a dream vacation loses their 2 year old little boy to a gator. Not so much summer fun.
Everyone has opinions. I’m not immune to that. But, can we stop judging parents so harshly? It’s a tough job even in the best of circumstances. Add in the technology of today with the instant-news always streaming, and you can immediately have santci-mommy jumping down your throat because “I would never” insert whatever you want. Either you are so controlling that your children will not function well in society, or you will eat those words.
I was a perfect parent. Then, I had kids. All my “I would never” have happened. I think they have, at least. My memory isn’t what it used to be. I have two kids with special needs.
Here’s a normal day – this happened yesterday. Littles and Smash-N-Break had occupational therapy for SPD and ADHD. After that, Bubba wanted to use their coupons for free ice cream cones at McDonald’s. He’s giving up 2 to 2 ½ hours every week of summer fun to sit in a waiting room so his brothers can get the help they need. I’m doing what I can to make up for that. So, I oblige. I’m getting Smash-N-Break unhooked from his car seat. Bubba unhooked Littles. Littles, who is excited about ice cream, is ignoring me saying “DO NOT LEAVE THE CAR” and runs out into the McDonald’s parking lot. Thankfully, it was a slow time, and the only car in motion was just entering the parking lot. I know had that driver not been paying attention, I would have had the judgment of a lot of people for letting my child get hit by a car.
We have ice cream, and I need to go to the post office. We get there, and go inside. I’m searching for my parents’ address. The kids are being kids bored in a post office. I get one down off the counter for the other one to climb up. They’re signing the cards we are mailing. They’re undoing the curtains that cover the post office windows when it’s closed. My phone is ringing. Littles is touched (SPD – feels like he was slapped). Meltdown by Littles ensues. The WONDERFUL postal worker is so understanding. She tells me to stop apologizing, she’s got 3 kids and 4 grandkids. That they aren’t bothering her, and it’s normal with little ones. It could be (and has been) so much different. I’ve had people accuse me of abusing my children for yelling at them to stop touching. She even asks me if they can have suckers.
We get the package mailed, and start to get ready to go to our next errand. I have Littles buckled in, and am starting to buckle Smash-N-Break, when he tells me he needs to go potty. NOW. I ask Bubba to unbuckle Littles as I get Smash-N-Break out. Knowing that the post office won’t let you use their restroom, we go next door to a diner. Bubba and Littles are right behind me and Smash-N-Break. I’m rushing Smash-N-Break towards the bathroom. He’s pulling his shorts down as we walk through the diner. I get him in the bathroom. Bubba says he needs to go, too. I get him in the other bathroom. I turn around, and Littles is gone.
I hear a crash come from the kitchen, with a surprised “How’d you get back here?!” I yell that I’m coming back, too. Littles disappeared into the kitchen area of the diner. He saw someone back towards the dishwashing area. I’m guessing he tried to climb where there were pots and pans, and he knocked them down. He’s running away, because stranger! He sees me, happily goes “Mama!” I apologize profusely to the diner employee, who looks shocked to have two complete strangers standing in her kitchen. She assures me it’s okay, and refuses to let me clean up the mess. Smash-N-Break comes out and proudly announces how he didn’t wash his hands because he only touched his penis. I’m beet red at this point, I’m sure. I make sure the toilets are flushed and we leave. As we walk back to the post office, Littles and Smash-N-Break skip right in front of a car, as I’m rushing right after them trying to get their hands. This car was going to the drive-up mailbox, so they were almost stopped.
This is a normal day for me. I swear, most of my day consists of telling them not to do something, they do it anyway, and I apologize. I’m starting to think parenting is just apologizing for something constantly to someone. Someday, it will be me apologizing to my kids when they are adults. I’m teaching them manners, but they aren’t second nature for the younger ones yet. Bubba’s pretty good most of the time with manners. Smash-N-Break and Littles both lack impulse control. Smash-N-Break’s is due to ADHD. Littles – we’ll see. It could be age. It could be SPD. It could be crap parenting. My point is this – they are kids. I’m outnumbered. They are kids. I try. They are kids.
Notice a trend? They are kids. Kids don’t listen. Instead of “how dare those parents let their child play in water at night?!”, how about “what can I do to help?” Instead of “I’d notice if my 4 year old went missing. He wouldn’t have time to get into a gorilla enclosure.”, how about “Is there an address to send a get well card to the child?” Instead of telling a stranger they are abusive in Hobby Lobby because they are having to yell at their child for touching everything shiny (which is that whole store), how about a sympathetic smile? I don’t know the mile you’ve walked today, and you don’t know mine. When people look at my kids, they look normal. So, when Littles has a sensory meltdown, it’s “because I coddle him”. When Smash-N-Break is told for the hundredth time that store to stop touching, it’s “because I’m obviously abusive”. When Bubba is in tears because he didn’t listen to his coach and has to run extra, it’s “because I babied him too much growing up”. People don’t see that two of my children do have diagnoses that make it harder to go out in public with them.
Am I screwing things up with my children? Absolutely. Am I doing the best job I can? Absolutely. I’ve handed strangers a $5 Starbucks gift card before, because I could tell they needed something that day. I’ve had strangers hug me because they could tell I needed it. (And that lady deserves an award – I was cleaning up vomit from the floor of Target while Littles had a sensory meltdown from the sound of Smash-N-Break vomiting.) Instead of using the internet to instantly judge someone and how perfect you are in comparison, use compassion. Otherwise, what is the whole point to this thing called life? If we lose our empathy towards other’s, we are just transitioning to a society of sociopaths. That’s not the world I want to leave for my children or my children’s children. Is it what you want to leave as a legacy?