Julie Cole, co-founder of Mabel Labels, wrote a blog this week that really struck a chord within me; she was at the local mall with 3 of her 6 kids and her toddler was having a melt down. Not out of the ordinary for any toddler! Well, of course, some elderly person made a snarky remark about her parenting skills. It’s happened to all of us at some point and when we’re struggling, it certainly doesn’t feel good to have someone sling mud in our face.
As the parent of special needs kids, I know all too well what it feels like to be on the receiving end of someone’s judgment. Teachers, doctors, other parents and even some family members are often quick to judge and the blame usually falls on the mother. Rather than being sympathetic and supportive, some people love to put themselves above others in a condescending way. Ouch! In other words, the person who is already down on their knees gets kicked again.
Why do they do this? It’s often because it makes them feel temporarily superior to others. For example, the senior in the mall who was quick to judge Julie Cole was probably congratulating herself on her superior parenting skills (my kids never behaved like that) while she was criticizing Julie. In my case, it was easy for others to feel better at my expense. When my sons were young, before they were diagnosed, one of my sons was kicked out of 3 schools within one year. He was later diagnosed with Early Onset Bipolar Disorder; in fact, he was one of the youngest children ever diagnosed in Canada. Meanwhile, you can probably imagine the number of people who assumed I was a lousy parent. I remember showing up at a school fundraising luncheon one day and being ostracized by the other moms. I was deeply hurt. I really needed support although, clearly, I was looking for it in the wrong places. Did I feel vindicated when he was finally diagnosed? No! But relieved, yes, because I was hopeful we would finally get the support we needed and deserved with our son.
I have learned the hard way you never truly know why another person behaves as they do unless you walk a mile in their shoes. Next time you’re in the grocery line and there’s a parent struggling with their child, please be supportive (perhaps offering to help them to their car with their groceries). You’ll feel better about yourself for helping and, no doubt, the other person will be incredibly grateful.
One more thing: I’m proud to say my son who was kicked out of 3 schools in grade 3 is currently at the top University in Canada on a Principal’s scholarship and he’s on the Dean’s list. He’s the nicest young man and I am very proud of him for all of his accomplishments; especially since he has had to overcome obstacles that most people will never deal with in their lifetime!