What YOU can do

17 Sep

So my last post hit a nerve with people.

I wrote about how Maura had a very public meltdown. People stared. People walked past us. People sort of made comments after looking away.

Or…you know…the norm.

I also wrote how no one helped. So naturally, the comments were “I don’t know how to help!” and “What could I do to help?” and “I don’t expect they’ll want help so I don’t offer.”

But mostly “Tell us what we can do to help.”

I’ve mulled on this. I responded a couple times to comments. I brought it up to other bloggers who are in a similar boat as us. Then I got really annoyed.

Because the answer is simple.

Just offer to help.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

There. That’s it. If I don’t need help, I’ll respond with “No thank you.”

This is where you don’t get offended, or stop every offering help to anyone again. Because someone may say “Yes, please, could you…” – and then, you see if you can do the thing they ask. It may be holding a door open, or getting a cart, or pushing their cart to their car while they safely get the person melting down to the car.

It’s just that simple.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

I mean, really, do you have to ask what you can do?

If you’re uncertain about if your offer of help will do more harm than good, then look to the person with the person having the meltdown. Catch their eye and mouth the offer. If they wave you away or shake their head, then nod and smile and walk away.

There, that’s how you can do this. Again, pretty simple, huh?

And here’s the other thing…

Yes, I know it’s natural to want to stop and look. I got one comment of how they check to make sure abuse isn’t happening. I got a lot of “it’s human nature to look”.

Trust me, I get it.

But when you keep looking…or let your kids stare until their eyeballs roll out…or as we pass by, turn to mutter to your shopping mates…that’s going beyond human nature. Now you’re just making us feel like a sideshow.

I did not get any “You’re doing a good job mom” from anyone. Not even a “I feel your pain, kids are horrible, ammiright?” bonding. Not even one encouraging smile and nod of solidarity.

No, I got looks…and hushed tones…and raised eyebrows…and people making us feel like we were in the way (okay, we were in the way, but still…)

There was only one mom herding a trio of young teens past us…and the teens all began to gawk, and I heard her do a “Move along, nothing to see here” sort of thing and stopped their gawking.

To that mom…thank you.

To the rest of you – that’s something else you can do. Even if it’s telling yourself “stop gawking”. It may be human nature to initially look, but it’s human decency to not gawk at someone in a meltdown.

But really, you’re all overthinking the matter.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

That’s all you really have to do.

And quite frankly, it’s a bit frustrating that I have to spell it out for people. I’m sorry if that offends, but my therapist says I need to start saying how I really feel about things.




                            Yes, that’s a squirrel. No, it has nothing to do with this post.                                                                  Photo by Geran de Klerk on Unsplash











15 Responses to “What YOU can do”

  1. Stephs Two Girls September 17, 2017 at 12:46 pm #

    Perfect. Exactly what is most welcome. A general offer of help. And then no offence taken if the very stressed parent says thanks but no thanks. You’ve got it in a nutshell. Thank you.

  2. Grandpa September 17, 2017 at 1:05 pm #

    I feel your pain. And, yes, you are doing a great job. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different. It’s not easy to ignore the gawkers. But that is what we have to do. And we do it so well.

  3. Angel of Anthropology September 17, 2017 at 1:12 pm #

    It is interesting that you simply tell people to ask what they can do to help and nothing more, then further down say that you were disappointed that no one said “Good job mom!” or something supportive.

    This is why I asked.

    I had a mom get in my face when I gave her a smile. She pounced on me before I could do anything else so I stopped smiling and walked away without doing anything else.
    This is why I asked.

    People are individuals and unique. Not everyone wants a stranger ask if they can help. And that’s fine.

    I have kids. They could be a handful and I’ve always ALWAYS asked a struggling parent if there is something I could do to make the moment easier on them.

    But I’ve noticed this strange trend where parents snap at me or get in my face about asking. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older and perhaps they’re thinking I’m going to give them some sort of unwanted advice or what.
    When I ask “What can I do to help?” all I mean is “What can I do to help?”
    I completely understand bad days. We all have them.

    While you say “I mean, really, do you have to ask what you can do?” the answer is YES! I’m not going to just jump in and possibly make it worse! Your child is unique! Would it help if me and my family casually stood between your child and the subject of their meltdown (in your case backpacks)? Would that make it worse? I do not know your child. I do not know what helps and what doesn’t.

    All kids are different. All kids are unique and awesome. Why would you want me to assume anything about yours?

    And yes, acting like someone like me who has no experience with kids like yours (I honestly do not even know the proper term to use that’s not going to insult you or other parents) should have just KNOWN what to do is outrageous. While this is so clear to you, obviously it isn’t to others as many of us asked. At least we cared enough to ask. At least we reached out to see how we can make things easier and you sort of bit at us. People like me draw back and shrug and walk away making a mental note of the experience.

    • Phyllis Comstock September 17, 2017 at 1:22 pm #

      I agree. This blog has gotten more and more about scolding everyone. Getting kind of tiresome.

      • Annie September 18, 2017 at 6:14 pm #


    • Phoebe September 17, 2017 at 1:40 pm #

      Saying “All kids are unique” is both true and not.

      I have four kids. They are all individuals. But parenting Maura has been a different experience. There is so much the same…but also so much that’s different – especially when I’m parenting her in the public eye. Especially now that she’s 14.

      You asked what to do. I kept it simple – ask. If you don’t want to ask what to do because you’ve had a negative experience, then feel free to keep walking. It’s that simple.

      • Jaycee Kemp September 17, 2017 at 2:29 pm #

        I find your response to be appropriate and simple….and people DID want to know. For many, I think it is uncomfortable. Like any parent, we ride that public line of judgement/been there done that….it just looks super different when it’s not a toddler and we are already like an exposed nerve because it is not 3 years of “this isn’t forever” but rather a decade or more of “it might be”. People just don’t know….and people just don’t know what to do either. The appropriate response is different for everyone for sure just like in any situation—but your “just ask” approach…that can never, ever be wrong because the short answer to that question is either yes or no. If someone chose not to gawk or chose not to ignore they probably will just move along if the answer is “no”….even if it is barked at them. Thanks for responding to your readers on this one.

    • Lisa Stark September 17, 2017 at 5:31 pm #

      Thanks for saying what I’m thinking. I am a special educator and deal with kids melting down every day, yet I still asked this blogger what I should do. Because when it’s in school I know the child and what will help him or her, but in public, I don’t. I cared enough to ask and got this post for it. Thanks for expressing yourself so eloquently for both of us.

    • Lisa Stark September 17, 2017 at 5:34 pm #

      I replied to the wrong post. I replied to Jaycee’s but meant to reply here.

    • Annie September 18, 2017 at 6:13 pm #

      I totally agree. Her criticism of people who were concerned enough to ask a simple question is ridiculous.

    • NODDY September 19, 2017 at 10:25 am #

      Angel of Antropology, I find your answer very interesting.

      You seem to me to be very offended that someone just confirmed that what you’ve done in the past (offered help), was indeed helpful. I speak as the fiancee of a man in a wheelchair who looks a little different. We get a lot of stares, sometimes (seldom, but sometimes) we have crisis situations. Sometimes, in a moment of crisis, I might get frustrated with someone offering help – for a myriad of reasons. Let me give you an example.

      We’ve driven for an hour to reach a mall to see a movie as we live very far from a city. We are excited and looking forward to our little treat. We arrive to find no disabled parking open because a delivery vehicle has decided the disabled bays are closest to the door and thus convenient for their delivery. We are getting frantic because fiance needs the bathroom and we can’t use another parking because they are too narrow and he can’t get out the car. You see, he has partial sensation in his lower body and so doesn’t get much warning that he needs a toilet, like sooner than soon. I chase down mall security and get the delivery van moved. We get out the car. This step isn’t quick because I must offload his chair and he’s trying not to move too much as that could cause himself to s*&t his pants. We move towards the door and another lady in the disabled parking nearly reverses over us with her car. “I couldn’t see you” she shouts at me. Whatever, I don’t have time for this, we need that bathroom now. We fly through the mall, to the closest disabled bathroom but nope, it’s locked. Onto the next one – on the other side of the mall. Occupied. We knock and realise it’s mall security taking a nap (oh so very common in our country). And then fiance soils his pants because we ran out of time. His normally passive demeanor flicks and he starts to swear/cry/freak out in some way because to him the outing is over and he feels like a burden to me. You come along and offer help and in that moment I finally crack and say something stupid. I “get in your face”.

      This is not because you have done something wrong – it’s just me – I am human and sometimes I crack and sometimes I am an a@#$%&e. I probably misinterpreted your actions in the heat of the moment. But you know what? When I have gone home I will feel like the a@#$%&e I was and you will still have done something that will have improved the situation – and we will both look back and know that at least *someone* in the whole situation cared – not the disregard of the delivery driver, the stupid excuses of a driver, the apathetic security guard that sleeps on duty or the hundreds of people who treated us as a spectacle but the person who offered to help, you cared.

      It’s incredibly hard to give generic advice about how to help and suggesting you could ask seems to be some of the most universally helpful response. Every situation differs, even for one family and getting a bad reaction doesn’t necessarily mean your response is wrong. Maybe the person was just past their limit, or maybe like me, they were just being an a@#$&*$e, but neither of those reasons mean *you*, Angel of Anthropology, were wrong to offer.

      I also think it’s incredibly unfair to roast Phoebe for her post. In essence, she’s telling you that your instinctive response of offering help is spot on. Maybe you feel her post is incomplete because she didn’t explicitly say that a “good job” would have helped. Maybe that comment would help in a situation where it’s clearly a mother and child but personally, I get very frustrated with people who express a similar sentiment to me when it takes the form of praise for being with my fiance, because no, I am not amazing, he is amazing and a better human than any other man I ever dated and the crises and adventures we have had make me no more “fantastic” for being with him and this sentiment, when you actually unpack it, says he is less worthy and a “normal person” would never want “that”. However, I am definitely taking that way beyond the scope of how you can help a parent with a struggling child.

      Apologies for the essay.

  4. Kinship Caring September 17, 2017 at 3:33 pm #

    The strange thing about being asked if there is anything that can be done to help is that when we say no it is because we are so focused on the issue at hand, there really is nothing that will help at that instant.

    But then, because the situation is in a constant state of flux, as the inquirer walks away we wish that they had come along just a few seconds later, because now there is something they can do. But it’s too late; the would-be helper has gone away.

    If we ask, then there’s no harm done. Maybe we will be the one who can help. If not, feel good about asking. And remember that the struggling parent is not attacking you, personally, but is so focused on dealing with their child that a polite reply may simply not be in their frustrated vocabulary at that moment. Yet, after the event, the gratitude will be effusive, even if you couldn’t help.

  5. Heather September 17, 2017 at 4:12 pm #

    Love me some squirrel

  6. feebeeglee September 17, 2017 at 7:39 pm #

    That’s exactly it. There’s no better one size answer.

    Oh and 14 is such a hard age. For any kid, NT or not. I totes feel you.

  7. Saracvt September 18, 2017 at 10:43 am #

    It’s just like when I ask a struggling elderly person if I can help them. Sometimes they are grateful to have me carry their groceries to their car, sometimes open the door for them, sometimes they are fiercely independent and snap, “I’m just fine, no thanks!” Just now I am helping my neighbor because she is having back surgery. I carry her trash out for her (to the end of our rather long shared driveway) and check her mail daily. Did I know she needed these things? Not until I asked what I could do to help. And when they don’t want or need my help, it doesn’t stop me from asking the next person. That’s kind of silly.

    So why is it different for parents? I don’t get it, I really don’t. Why do you need to know EXACTLY how to help before you dare ask? It’s not CPR. You don’t need to be certified. So why? Just ask like you would any other person. It’s not rocket science.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: