Ruffled feathers

19 Sep

I blogged about a public meltdown that Maura had. Shared how I felt. I was honest, and maybe a bit too raw about it.

In return, many people asked “If I was one of those people in the proximity of Maura’s meltdown, well, exactly what should I do to help? How can I help?”

So I blogged again, after sitting on these questions of “How can I help?” by saying “Just ask. It’s really that simple.”

There were three reactions to this. 

The first type of reaction I got was that I was rude or snippy or flippant with my response. “We were just asking you what we could do, and instead, we got this post.”

I re-read my blog post, and don’t feel I was being rude. Maybe blunt? But not rude. I do apologize if I seemed rude, that was never the intent.

The second type of reaction I got was “Yes. This. Spot on. It’s just that simple. Thank you.” Oddly enough – that type of response came from other parents of children with disabilities.

Apparently, I said something that made sense to those of us who deal first-hand with the public meltdown, but seemed rude to those who witness the meltdown.

I am a bit confused by this response. Because usually, I am better at bridging that gap – at least, so I’ve been told. But maybe I wasn’t. Maybe I really sucked at it this time.

Maybe this is just something that only those of us living this lifestyle get, and that it is hard for outsiders to understand.

Except there was a third response.

Just this one. From my friend – who does not have a child with a disability, or is disabled, or works with the disabled. Just a friend. And maybe because of that friendship, she was able to see through the words I wrote to find the point I was making because she’s heard the tales I don’t tell here. Or maybe because I know this friend is the type who really listens to others, even when they aren’t being clear, who works hard to know what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. But after I posted the blog, she wrote the following to me…

Thank you!! I was actually going to ask you to address this in a post, and I’m so glad you did even if I’m kicking myself for needing it spelled out. Because duh even if I were to ask the same person on different days (or at different times of day) the response would probably be different. You do an amazing job speaking to your experience, and I can’t begin to imagine the patience it requires. I appreciate it so much, I have learned so much from you. Thank you.

So maybe I did say something that made some sense to those who don’t deal with disability every day?

Who knows.

But where does all this leave me now?

To be honest…as much as I blog and seem to share our lives, I am the type who does not open up much. I have been working in therapy to realize that my feelings should be expressed and do matter, despite what the world has told me my whole life on so many levels. But to open up the comments and read that people think I’ve reacted rudely or badly when I’m just expressing how I feel…honestly, it makes me want to close the laptop, and walk away, and never return.

This is why I tend to shy away from offering advice, from telling people what to do. Because, funny enough, I don’t feel qualified. And obviously, from reactions to my post, many people believe I’m unqualified as well.

And there is a voice in my head going “This is why you don’t ask for help. This is why you keep things to yourself. This is why you don’t reach out.”  – because I go about it the wrong way…or at least the voice in my head dubbed “Mean Phoebe” by my therapist tells me all the time.

And the honest truth is, I don’t really expect anyone to step in and offer help.

I don’t look for help. I have spent a lifetime figuring things out on my own because that’s just how I was programmed. Asking for help is interrupting someone else’s more important life.

So in retrospect, no, I am not qualified to tell you how you could help out people having public meltdowns, because I would never ask for help from strangers in a store during one. I would never expect a stranger to go out of their way for the likes of me. Which is why the few times they have, I am blown away by their kindness.

Maybe that’s what I should have said in response to the questions I got. Then no feathers would have been ruffled at least.

These are just my feelings. My thoughts. My points of view in this world, or at least, the reactions to one blog post. This is still our story I’m telling, and maybe I won’t always do a good job at it. Maybe some of you will stop reading it. That’s okay.

But I’m still allowed to tell it.



Photo by Rod Sot on Unsplash




13 Responses to “Ruffled feathers”

  1. franhunne4u September 19, 2017 at 1:37 am #

    Don’t let those of us who feel a little attacked by your posts deter you from shining light.
    We need to be confronted about our behaviour and our thoughts and prejudices.

    I know I have changed my attitude to people who have a melt-down in public – sometimes (I am not a saint and I don’t always have a good day, too).

    You know why we feel attacked? Because we are called out. Because we are indeed “guilty” of ignorance (at best) and prejudices and even lazyness and phobia of what we do not know. Which is not a nice thing to realise about oneself. We all like to be seen as the good ones. We aren’t. And we only have ourselves to blame.

    Keep up to be a voice for reason, tolerance and understanding.

  2. Stephs Two Girls September 19, 2017 at 2:46 am #

    I like to think that you have helped even those who thought you were being rude (can’t understand why they drew that conclusion tbh ), and at least made them think about what they might do (or not do) when faced with a meltdown. Don’t give them another thought, and please do carry on sharing your thoughts, as they help many others x

  3. Nora Elise September 19, 2017 at 7:04 am #

    This post right here was you opening up. Addressing those concerned, those missing the mark – so to speak, and those who got you. When it comes to writing/blogging/sharing the tiniest or largest pieces of our lives, that is opening up. That is expressing oneself. You have a genuine authenticity and I really respect it because if I went through a similar situation with my own readers, it wouldn’t have been my nature to apologize for their misunderstandings. Thank you for showing me something I haven’t considered.

  4. Sharon Weidemann September 19, 2017 at 7:39 am #

    I hear you all loud and clear:) I personally think being a special needs parent we grow and change into different people- people who will learn to stand nose to nose with a doctor and for the umteeth time tell them your child is having pain and it is not simply a behavior challenge… and yes sometimes it is just that but the reality is that we are the voice for our kiddos who don’t have one of their own and we learn that we don’t fit in anymore bc quite frankly our kids never fit in and our society still isn’t very good at being comfortably and welcoming to those that don’t act like everyone else. It just is so we continue to share our lives and our insights for those who care to listen and those who don’t want to are free to go elsewhere- welcome to America where we currently still have the freedom of speech- Until that changes, Speak it!

  5. Catherine Fogle September 19, 2017 at 8:02 am #

    Because of you, and because of family members who have kids with disabilities, I’m learning to change my thoughts/language regarding things in the store. From, “Whoa, I wouldn’t put up with THAT,” to “Man, that mom must be having a rough time of it today.” Or that family, or that child. Because you have shared your feelings and your experiences, I have begun to think less judgmentally and more thoughtfully – more tenderly towards others.

    Keep sharing your feelings. Please. Feathers ~will~ get ruffled!! That’s human nature and there are (unfortunately) some super-sensitive and some downright rude people on the internet, as there are everywhere. But keep sharing. Because those of us who would like to change, who would like to help, or who would like to understand – we are reading, too.

  6. nanis September 19, 2017 at 9:30 am #

    I never for one second thought you were rude. I do not have a special needs child or loved one, but I care. And, through your posts, I am constantly learning. I think I would better respond in such a situation because of what you have written. Do not soften your message because some people get uncomfortable.

    And I disagree with you on one thing: because of this post, some folks WILL step forward to offer to help.

  7. anarchistwithatoddler September 19, 2017 at 9:46 am #

    Eh. Having one’s feathers ruffled is part of growing as a human being, learning to listen to others, to be humble with regard to one’s own ignorance and limitations. I’ve experienced this as a white person talking with people of color about racism or reading their pieces on the Internet. If I listen and am open to their experience, not rewriting it according to my own insecurities, it challenges me to grow as a person. Some of the most difficult and upsetting conversations have ultimately been the most valuable. It’s possible to move beyond that reflexive “But I’m a good person! You’re mean!” reaction. Sure, everyone won’t. Some will clamp down and remain defensive. You can’t control that, but you can provide the opportunity to move past it and grow in new directions.

    I have a disabled child who has public meltdowns and I would appreciate an offer of help now and then. And I would appreciate the person not being offended if I say no. Do I expect it? No, but I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised.

  8. evaglosson September 19, 2017 at 11:58 am #

    I think a lot of parents in general are used to working in a silo. We don’t live close to family, and our schedules are stretched so thin that we don’t have time to form/join/nurture our motherhood tribe. As an able bodied (paperwork pending) mother with two “traditional” kids (now with accessory dust ruffle!) I wish other parents would step up more. And now I wish I stepped up more too. And just the offer of help or question to make sure you aren’t walking away from someone in crisis is just a general good human thing to do. Thanks for posting, it’s helpful to hear the whole chain of events and read back through thoughtfully.

  9. Heather Cherry September 19, 2017 at 2:09 pm #

    I found your suggestion to “just ask” perfect. I was raised with the almost unspoken instruction “ignore the freak-out”, as in ‘those people are already having a crappy day, they don’t need you butting in’ – but as you pointed out, if I ask our mouth the words can I do anything to help – you can always say NO, if you don’t want any help or help isn’t needed. I did not find your post rude, or blunt, I found it helpful. It reminded me that the simplest thing to do is to trust that people will say what they need if I have the sense to ask – including saying NO or go away if that is what is needed. Direct communication: the best. Thank you for making the time to blog. (Aside: I am now hyper-aware of the back-to-school aisle. I think of you and Maura every time I see the backpacks!)

  10. Ashley September 20, 2017 at 6:34 am #

    You are a gem, Phoebe. Thank you for openly and honestly going where few people dare dip their toe. I appreciate your candor and humor. You are the only “mom blogger” (no offense intended) whose words I read- your posts are real and approachable and make me feel less alone in motherhood. Your experience and opinions are so valuable.

  11. cair75 September 21, 2017 at 11:44 am #

    Please, ruffle my feathers! I am not walking in your shoes, nor do I have close friends/family who are. The only way I grow into being a kinder, more aware person is to have my feathers ruffled some. I’m not looking for pats on the back (at least not all the time 🙂 )

    Ypur writing is really meaningful to me. I hope you won’t allow a few ruffled feathers to stop you from sharing.

  12. headwindjournal September 24, 2017 at 11:03 am #

    I very much appreciate your honesty and writing. I myself am not in your shoes, but appreciate learning about your experience.

  13. judyt54 October 19, 2017 at 4:44 pm #

    This is late to the dance, but I did want to comment on all of this. Like many here I don’t have a special needs family member, but I do have friends who do–and when something goes awry, I always assume, rightly or wrongly, that this is their kid, and they know what’s going on, and what needs to be done or not done, for this particular child and this particular event. Not me. If they need help, they know they can ask. At the least, they know they can talk about it without being lectured with “well, you shoulda…”. And when they do, I learn a little more.

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