Responding to my own post – regarding “Staring”

9 Aug

Yesterday I wrote about dealing with the rubberneckers of life when Maura’s having a loud, public meltdown.

I’ll admit, I was a bit surprised by a few of the comments.

Yes, there were those going “Ignore them!” (I tend to) and “BTDT”, to which I salute you, fellow parents living the dream.  But then there were others who tried to explain why they look upon us.

I get to a degree, why people look.  I mean, if a child starts shrieking as if set on fire, it is totally natural to turn your head and see if the child is actually on fire.  Once you assure yourself they aren’t on fire, really, it’s time to move on.

Some of you promised, you’re not really gaping – and I do believe you.  These are the reasons for looking at the screaming child left in my blog comments –

Wondering if the child’s in pain.

I can tell you that when Maura’s having a meltdown, she’s not in pain.  When you have a child who doesn’t communicate well verbally, you actually become quite tuned into their cries and attitudes.  Maura has a fake cry (and I’ll say “Wow that’s fake” and she’ll laugh), a mad cry, an upset cry, a sad cry, and actually gets really quiet when in real pain.  If it’s a knee scrape, she will cry, but not to the degree of a hungry/tired meltdown.

If she is hurt, I can also assure you that I wouldn’t be marching her sternly towards a time out.  No, I’d be kneeling down, giving hugs, pulling band aids out, doing something lovingly maternal to try to fix the problem.

Seeing if the screaming child is a student of theirs.

Well, that’s a new one.  I have almost never run into Maura’s teachers in public, even when we lived in the very small town in Michigan.  Let me tell you, if I did spot one of her teachers in public during a meltdown, I’d be all “OMG LOOK, it’s Miss So and So!” to try to break the spell of the tantrum.  And knowing Maura’s teachers in the past, and even now, most would probably be over there in a heartbeat to help out.  Because they’ve all been fabulous like that.  So teachers, aides, therapists – you have my permission to help run interference if you see a student out with their parent giving their parent a hard time.  The parent may just hug you for it.

Making sure there’s no abuse happening.

This one kind of bothered me.  That for some reason, my child may be screaming because of abuse.  It also makes my life even more stressful because I know those types are out there, judging my every action, seeing if I’m abusing the poor screaming child.  So I have to be cautious about every move I make because there are so many levels of what people consider abuse.  Me holding her by the upper arm as I walk her out of the mall may seem abusive to someone else, even though I’m holding her like that to A) make sure she doesn’t dart off out the door and possibly into traffic and B) because my oldest child had Nursemaid’s Elbow so if you held him by the hand and he tried to yank away, he’d actually pull his elbow out of the socket.  We found this out one time at church.  And another time at a McDonald’s ball pit.  Luckily, he outgrew it.  Our the pediatrician suggested the upper arm hold verses holding the hand when escorting children, and seeing as Maura’s joints are a bit hyperflexible, I am not taking chances.

But to someone else, it might look like “rough handling”.

I also feel like I can’t speak loudly to Maura.  I’m not allowed to show anger to her in public.  I can’t speak loudly so she can hear me over her screaming.  In many ways, I feel like I’m not able to parent her in ways I was able to parent my other children.  Because once people figure out that she’s different, then it becomes “Why is that horrible woman yelling at that poor child?”  Um, because that poor child is being a brat and can’t hear my soothing tones so I have to be louder?

And she’s actually aware enough to get when I’m angry or upset because she’s done something wrong.  And that’s okay for her to experience that.   How else is she going to learn that some things aren’t acceptable to do?  By me smiling and going “Now sweetie, that’s a big no-no.”?

I will promise you, that if you witness Maura in the midst of a full meltdown, I am no longer focusing on whatever caused the meltdown.  At that point, I know that we’re living in the moment, and that moment needs to be diffused.  I will use stern tones to let her know the behavior is not acceptable, use words like “naughty” about her behavior because she understands that, and will use short sentences so she can easily process what I’m saying like “This is NOT a choice!”  I usually won’t be smiling, because smiling will either make her angrier, or make her think she can get away with what she’s doing.  I have to have the stern face, the stern voice, the stern attitude.  But stern doesn’t even mean I’m mad, or angry, or about to go ballistic on the girl.

Do you know what will cause my temper to start rising however?

People staring at us.

People watching my every move in case I’m about to become horribly abusive in public.

Which is why I’ve learned to put on blinders.

It’s a very strange position to be in – I block you all out, yet I am hyperaware that we’re being watched, being judged.  I know you’re there, I’ll meet your eye.  I have no shame because I am doing nothing wrong.

What is funny to me is after that last big meltdown at the mall, my friend met us outside, Maura had calmed down, and I joked “Well, another successful shopping trip where we didn’t get the cops called on us for abuse.”

I live our life knowing that there could be a day when some well-meaning stranger does call the police or security on us because of a meltdown.  Because it happens all the time in our world.

In the meantime, I will still take Maura places, because that’s how she’ll learn to behave in public.  She can’t learn if I keep her hidden at home, away from all the stares.




13 Responses to “Responding to my own post – regarding “Staring””

  1. itsybitsymom August 9, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

    Sometimes I stare. I stare in an attempt to see if there is some way, any way I could help a Mom in the midst of the type of public crisis I have so often experienced with my own very large son with Asperger’s. I catch myself and remember the horrible feeling of being started at – of worrying that someone would accuse me of abusing my son, or worse, when he turned 8 and was bigger than me I realized in horror that at some point someone might accuse him of abusing me. Sometimes I jump in and ask if there is anything I can do, sometimes I fear jumping in will only make things worse for the child melting down which in turn will make things worse for the struggling Mom. Sometimes I stare because I have been there and I am overcome with remembering when public tantrums were at their worst. Sometimes I stare while saying a silent prayer for you, your child, your family, myself, my child, my family.

  2. Charlotte Steggz August 9, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    Exactly – don’t hide away from them. Just as much as Maura needs to learn to how to behave in public, the public need to learn how to behave around Maura. If people stare because it’s an unusual sight, then great. You’re showing them that this is your reality.

  3. Lori-Anne August 10, 2014 at 12:52 am #

    *hugs* it’s so sad when we have to be careful for what we do in case someone else gets the wrong idea. even if that something is kind and caring and the best (or only) option. You are a great mom to Maura, but there are always going to be those who don’t get it.

    I know your situation isn’t as lighthearted as this post, but I offer you a Solidary Pound It anyways. Because mothering is hard enough, and being a SN Mother is even harder. *hugs* ( Maybe the gif will give you a smile.

    • Chris August 10, 2014 at 1:46 am #

      You Go Girl!!!

  4. Sara August 10, 2014 at 3:50 am #

    Having ‘blinders’ on is a good way to go through life. I started ignoring everyone when I was being bullied in Jr. high school and that habit stuck with me into adulthood to the point where people call me bitchy and rude. When I started working in a hyper friendly environment I had to learn to acknowledge every co worker, every single time I saw them, instead of just being in my own world doing my job while ignoring everyone.

    Just ignore everything! Ignore the street harassers, ignore the people who stare, ignore everyone who doesn’t matter. You can’t change people, you can only change how you react or don’t react to them.

  5. Mary C. August 10, 2014 at 6:11 am #

    Let it be said…You are amazing! It’s hard, I am as you would say, living the “dream.” As my son has gotten older its become a “little” bit better but you never know when the meltdown will hit. Thoughts and prayers!

  6. Suziqueue August 10, 2014 at 6:59 am #

    Why do people think it’s their right to sit and judge people in the first place?

    Don’t get me wrong; if someone sees something that is OBVIOUSLY abusive, yes, they should say something. But to stare with the express intention of judging whether or not a parent is abusive? That’s going a bit far, imo. Not to mention rude and intrusive and a whole slew of unpleasant things.

    I can relate though; my daughter was the same way as a young child. She still doesn’t have the communication skills (she’s still non-verbal at 19), but the older she got, the more relaxed she seemed to get. I think realizing that I actually do understand her body language – at least for the most part – helped with that. But yeah, as a young child, if she was tired or hungry or thirsty or anything other than happy? She’d cry. And people would stare. I’d be too wrapped up in trying to figure out what was wrong with my child to pay them any mind then and there, but those staring faces would haunt me later, when everything was calm and I actually had the time to think about it.

    Seriously, f*ck people sometimes. Just… f*ck ’em.

  7. Cair August 11, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

    I’m sorry you even needed to add a follow on post. I don’t have a special needs child and I’m not really sure how I would react if I saw a parent with a tween who was having a melt down. I hope that from my years of reading your blog that I would be able to channel my learnings and do something supportive, or at least neutral. I pledge to you and other parents walking in shoes like yours to at least not stare, and definitely not judge.

    Sending you a virtual Grande Vanilla Latte, with “Febe” inked on the side.

  8. Laura August 11, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

    I’m sorry if my comment made you feel like I would be judging you. I am in no position to judge having had my fair share of noisy exits from stores with my boys. In fact, I don’t flinch at kids shrieking in stores. I have been known to hover around an escape artist toddler that is half in and half out of his seat so if he does fall, I’ll catch that little guy like he is the last chocolate candy bar on the planet but am I judging the Mom? No, she is just trying to get through her list and turned her back for a minute. We have all been there. My good hard look at a situation would be one, maybe two seconds, and I’m back to my own business unless someone needs help then I’m happy to lend a hand. I have a nephew who is autistic/Tourette’s/ bi-polar and a host of other issues. My son’s friend has Tourette’s and his other buddy has battled cancer for 10 years so the bald look is also very familiar, and will also bring on the stares. Needless to say, I’m pretty unflappable. My sister-in-law constantly worries that her son’s caregivers are treating him properly. He is 20, non-verbal and seems to have no sense of pain. That is where I am coming from when I say that I look. Will I go out of my way to look? Heck no. Will I even give 99% of situations that do happen within my eyesight a second look? No. But in the back of my mind is my nephew and if any of his caregivers were to mistreat him, I would hope someone would take the time to notice and help him.

  9. Laura August 11, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

    And by the way, I know that just because I have friends and family members with special needs kids, I’m no expert. In fact, the longer I’m a Mom, the more I realize what I don’t know. According to my teens, it’s quite a lot.

    • phoebz4 August 12, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

      Nothing like teens to bolster your confidence, lol!

  10. bizigal August 12, 2014 at 11:06 am #

    That is the beauty of having a child with special needs; the only people who really understand are the parents with special needs kids. You are way to nice to respond..when someone at the store asks me what’s wrong, I say “It’s ‘Nunya'” They ask what “Nunya” is and I say, “Nunya business”!

  11. Christine Stimson August 13, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

    You should print out cards that say “I have special needs child & she is throwing a tantrum. If you want to know more, see my blog, Herding Cats, at

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