Responding to my own post – regarding “Staring”

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.