Living Free. Tips for Parents of Children with Special Needs or Otherwise.
I have a two year old.
My two year old listens.
Sometimes he doesn’t.
But on this particular day, he was doing all the right things. Walking. Hands to himself. Not running. Quiet voice. Following a parent.
We had been sitting in church for over an hour as we do most Sundays. Church was over. All congregants were leaving out of the aisles. My husband works with the technology ministry and moved to the back of the church to say hello to his fellow volunteers and check on a few things. Our son decided to follow him. I am following my son, a few feet away from me, but close enough. An older woman decided to grab my son by his arm and stop him from moving. I am thinking “Oh, she’s holding him because she doesn’t see me”. I immediately say to her “I have him. Thank you”. The older woman turned to me and responded “Do you? Do you have him? Are you sure?” (with that churchy older woman righteous indignation….and she’s still holding my son). I respond “Yes. Thank you”. She responded “You need to keep an eye on him. Watch him. I had one like that. And he is giving me hell now at the age of 28”. My response was not anger nor empathy towards her circumstance. I simply responded with “I don’t want to disrespect you. So I will wish you a good Sunday” And I walked away.
There are many posts I read on apraxia, autism, and other special needs groups where parents get public opinion by family, friends, or even strangers about their child’s behavior. I am immediately empathetic as a therapist toward the parent who has to handle so much and feel the eyes on her (his) back when your child has a meltdown or tantrum in public. The response of anger is natural towards the judgement others try to heap on you. But I like peace and am more conscious than ever about people, their energy, and who really matters. In the moment of meltdown, your child and you matter…shutting out the noise is a skill to develop that is only refined in the fire (the situations).
Tips to Maintain Your Sanity When the Criticism Comes
- Maintain a respectful environment. Your child is watching you. Equally important, someone has to choose to bring respect into the atmosphere. That someone is you.
- Close it quickly. My engagement was about my child. The older woman wanted me to respond to her statements about her son and my son. I did not engage with her on that level. I responded from my level. “I will not and cannot disrespect you. Have a good day.” (and I walked away).
- Be thankful. Knowledge is power. I now know she is not a person my eyes will look upon when inquiring about parenting support or advice. When people show you who they are, believe them. Stop rechecking for them to show up the way you image or imagine. You will disappointed, hurt, and angry every time. Also be really thankful that you passed this test! You did it! (I am quietly in awe of myself and thanking God that I passed his test, especially after today’s sermon on how to respond to people of different capacity).
- Don’t defend. This is huge. Know your value as a parent. When people call any of those into question…you will not need to defend because of knowing who you are. The criticism may bruise a little or a lot. Don’t quietly ask the arena of criticism to take care of your scars or heal you. In your safe zone of you and your supporters, the healing can happen. I have had to learn this in business, family, relationships. And it all goes back to how you value YOU. When there is value, there is nothing to defend AND no need to try to top others (in an effort to make yourself feel better about you).
I was feeling out of it on the ride home. I was not angry. It was the questions you ask yourself about yourself. And then I stopped. How dare I let a brief encounter make me begin to second guess myself. The larger feeling was one of “Wow. I am growing up”. I can remember when any kind of criticism about things that I hold near and dear would injure me. Not anymore.
Being unafraid to show up is so important to resilient living. I respect the writing and research of Dr. Brene Brown and along with my spiritual foundation and life, it is elevating me in all areas. Finding YOU is saying I am doing my best. Standing in the power of YOU is saying “I am my best self right now. If that is what you will criticize when I am around. We can no longer be in the same space.”
THRIVE. Why? Because we have one life to live with no do overs. Because as humans beings we are sometimes in such survival mode that we mask our feelings of weary, tired, loss, hurt with negative sarcasm, criticism, expensive purchases, and defending.
Time out from that!
And it will take some getting used to.
You will need new parts of your supportive circle.
But trust me…you will have a greater sense of peace and deeper connection with life and the people that really matter.
So the next time, you get the critical eyes of judgement as your child rolls back and forth in the grocery store aisles or people think you have one too many children. Narrow your focus to your child and family. Understand his (her) needs. Block out the opinion of others. And verbally state “I don’t want to disrespect you as a human being. So I will bid you a good afternoon (or life)”.
Peace. (We all need it).
Landria Green ~SLP GURU