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Tag Archives: parents

For the Members of the Public – you’re welcome

2 Sep

Wednesday we went to Target.

I know, shocking.

The girls and I had gone out, done a couple things, and I needed things like eye drops, Keurig cleaner, and maybe new shoes for Maura. Target was chosen for its ability to give us all those things, plus maybe a Starbuck’s if we were all good.

Starbuck’s never happened. Instead, by the end of the trip, I was opening a bottle of Coke I grabbed while in line for the register, and said to Miriam “Momma’s gonna pour some rum in this Coke when we get home.”

#keepingitreal

Maura had a meltdown coupled with a battle of wills. Hers vs Mine. Damn fecking back to school section, the one that caused a serious meltdown the first time we saw it, but that we had overcome and were able to navigate, struck one last time in its death throes. To sum up – she wanted a backpack, I said no, cue 20 minute power struggle.

Several minutes into this, I called Josh for help because Maura was now hugging the backpack to her chest and I was determined to stick to my “I said we’re not getting the backpack.” Sure, I could have backpeddled, but I’m trying to teach her – like I taught all my other kids – that we can’t get every thing every time, especially if we have at least five of those things in our bedroom at home. So every time she put it in the cart, I’d take it out, put it on the shelf, and say “I said no.”

When Josh got there, we were actually right by the doors. Josh gave her the “I hear you’re not listening to Mom” speech, and told her she had to leave the store. We left Miriam with the cart, and I escorted Josh escorting Maura to the car. All the way, I would say things like “We have to leave because you’re not listening.” and “I said I wasn’t buying that for you, and I’m not.” and basically calmly narrating what we were doing and why in a tone that carried.

Not for me.

Not for Maura.

No, I was doing that for you, the public. You, the group of four adults catching up by the doors who paused to look at the scene we were creating. You, the single guy who paused to let us go ahead of him through the doors (btw, thanks). You, the couple walking in. You, the store associates who looked our way.

“We’re going to the car because you won’t listen to Mom. Mom said no.”

I walked with my husband not because he’s incapable of handling Maura, but to give him the presence of another female as he escorted his daughter, who was digging her heels in literally, to the car. A man escorting a teenage girl screaming to a car looks bad. A man and woman escorting a teenage girl screaming looks more parental. I wasn’t walking with him to help, I was walking with him to make sure someone didn’t call security on my husband and daughter.

Because you are all watching, you people in public. You all stop and turn and watch for a moment or two or three, and you watch us. Why? I don’t know, because we’re making a scene. Because the scene she’s making isn’t socially acceptable at her age and height? Because you’re curious or just plain nosy. Because it’s something to tell someone later. Because you want to make sure she’s okay?

I think mostly it’s because you’re nosy. So here’s some facts –

It’s a meltdown. A meltdown isn’t behaving badly, it’s losing control. My job with my daughter is to help her regain control. In this case, as in many, removing her from the situation is the most helpful – she doesn’t have the reminder of what caused the meltdown in front of her.

No, I can’t predict these things. That instance – just happened. She had been golden and responsive to my redirections just moments before. I think the feeding frenzy in the school section set her off. So really, public, this was your fault, not hers.

It’s part of Maura’s learning curve, so we roll with it. Yes, that means sometimes, it happens in public. No, that doesn’t mean I’ll stop taking her out because how the heck is she supposed to learn if she’s a recluse? Not to mention…

No one helped us.

Not one offer of help, or a kind word. There were a couple moms who told their kids to keep moving, nothing to see here, but there was also one mom who didn’t notice her child laughing and pointing at my daughter (she got a stern look and a head shake of “No” from me though.) There were a lot of you going around us, giving us a quick glance or three, and then you went into the backpack section to buy backpacks, thanks a fecking lot for that. Okay, you didn’t know, but inadvertently, you didn’t make it easier.

No one made it easier on us, so why do we have to make it easier on you?

I told my therapist about this incident. She asked how I felt during it all.

“Well, I had to remain calm.” I said.

“Yes, that’s a given. But how did you feel, knowing all those people around you were watching?”

“Honestly? I ignore them. I’ve learned to put on blinders.”

My therapist was impressed.

But I have. I’ve put on blinders to most of the looks, the stares, the whispers and glances. I’ve had to, because none of you matter in that moment. This time was harder because we were in a main aisle, and people had to walk around us. I caught more than I usually do.

Besides, I don’t need to see you there to know that you are there, watching, judging. Everything I do in public to help my daughter is tinted with the personae I put on for your sake. The loving mother not showing frustration – that’s for you, the public. The wife walking with her husband and daughter – for you all. The calm mother stating firmly but never ever angrily how we have to leave the store because we can’t scream in the store – all for you, Members of the Public.

If I had my way, I’d probably be more “OMG kid, really? Get up off that floor now, move!” But I’m not allowed to do that. I’m also not allowed to sit on the floor and cry with her. Just like I’m not allowed to open up a bottle of wine and drink it through the store, even though the store sells wine. I have to embrace the role of saint in public when my daughter’s having a meltdown because my daughter is disabled, and parents of disabled kids are either saints or monsters.

So I’m a friggen saint.

And most of you don’t even appreciate it.

 

 

 

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To the person who doesn’t want to give up their subway seat for my kid…

9 Jul

This article popped up in my feed. I read it, and I’ll admit, part of me did agree with you. But then you sort of glossed over that disabilities may not be seen by the naked eye. And that’s where you lost me. And since I was willing to hear your side – and again, even agree with some points – I think you now need to hear my side of things.

When we lived in Dublin, we were blocks from a Luas station – the Luas being the light rail train that ran from the more suburban areas of Dublin to City Centre. As someone who grew up with commuter trains in Chicago, I was enamored of the Luas. Trains get people places, and for less than what parking would cost.

My daughter Maura loved the Luas. She had her own Luas card for commuting. Because for the first few weeks of school, we had to commute by train. The commute meant walking the five-ish blocks to the train station, and down two flights of stairs to the platform (or use the elevator), take the train to our stop, then walk another several blocks to her school. Since we were traveling during the morning commute time, the train was usually full when it hit our stop, and packed by the time we were ready to get off. I soon figured out a spot that worked for us – the last car, by the back door, against the wall where Maura could lean against it for support, and a quick and easy exit. I would stand in front of her, shielding her a bit, but also shielding herself from other passengers so if she lost her balance, she lost it onto me and not a stranger.

 

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Maura waiting for the train in Ireland – 2011

 

Usually mornings went smoothly. It was afternoons that got difficult. She’d be tired from the school day, and the walk to the train could mean a series of bribes and cajoling. There was a little convenience store right next to the train where I’d let her buy a bag of popcorn if that’s what got us to the train. I would hope that we’d get a seat so she could sit and rest before having to walk home. If it was full, I’d be the mom you described in your piece, telling her she could sit soon, and nabbing the first spot available for her.

The train in Dublin wasn’t nearly as cut throat as other systems I’ve ridden on (which, on top of Chicago, I can add Paris, Barcelona, London, and yes, even the NYC subway.) The Dublin train riders were more likely to give seats to kids. Once, a school group came on, and little girls in plaid skirts were taking seats – and I watched not one, but two young men get up from their seats and move in order to give the school girls their seats, so that the teacher was able to have them all in one place. They didn’t ask how able-bodied the girls were.

Listen, I have taught my own children to give up seats for those who need it, whether it be at church or on a train. They have never balked or complained, and now, as almost grown/grown people, they are still giving up their hard-earned seats for those who may need it.

But I’ve also been the mom who needed the seat for my kid.

My very normal looking kid.

My kid who may look like she’s enjoying standing there on her own two feet.

My kid who had epilepsy that affected her balance. Who has motor skill issues that affect her balance. My kid with low muscle tone, who tires out more easily. My kid who can’t always correct or catch herself when she starts to fall, or who can’t always move fast enough to block herself when she does fall. The kid who couldn’t understand why she couldn’t sit when tired. The kid who’d be safer seated on a bouncing cornering train. The kid who, in your eyes, at first glance looks totally normal and healthy. Because she is healthy for the most part.

The one you basically dismissed with your bland statement that disability isn’t always visible to the naked eye. Because while you’re willing to write – possibly in a CYA sort of way – that not all disabilities are visible to the naked eye, you’re also ready to write off that me promising my kid a seat equates to coddling. Because to the naked eye, my daughter looks like an average kid.

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Maura – 2017

 

Now more than ever, I need that seat for Maura. Yes, she’s older, taller, and better at balancing herself. But when she stumbles and falls or needs support, she leans on me. Me, her now-shorter-than-her mom. Me, the gal with the twitchy back and inflamed shoulder. Me, who got that twitchy back and inflamed shoulder from years of helping Maura physically. Me, who would and has happily not sit if it means my daughter gets a seat.

Maura getting a seat means she gets a rest break – one that may not seem needed but will pay off later. Maura getting a seat means that I don’t have to use my own body to help hers cope and adjust with swaying train cars, stops and starts. Maura getting a seat means she won’t bump into other passengers while trying to catch her balance.

Listen, our world is more difficult to navigate because of my daughter’s disabilities. That her disabilities are invisible doesn’t make things better. Because we get judged – whether it’s for using the disabled toilet, or using the disabled seating on the train, or being judged as a coddling parent by someone’s cursory glance.

There are a lot of disabilities that aren’t visible. I personally know several kids who could use a seat on a train even though they look able and happy because their disability isn’t apparent to the naked eye. Kids with autism, kids with mild cerebral palsy, kids who have had strokes as toddlers – and my own kid, who doesn’t have a diagnosis but definitely is disabled.

And you know what? As the mom of three other children, who are all able-bodied, sometimes even those kids need to sit. They’ve had long days, or have a long trek ahead of them once they get off the train, or are just clumsy and would be safer on a seat. Moms who have been dragging their kid about town and are tired of playing goalie and just want to put him in a seat for five minutes so she can take a breather because she knows passengers will give her the stink eye if her kid bumps into them.

Listen, we’ve all been a bit of an asshole when it comes to holding onto our own hard-earned seats on trains or busses. But I’m pretty certain that kids having seats on trains isn’t the downfall of civilization as we know it. And as the mom who used to ride the Luas constantly with her own kid who did need the seat, I am grateful for every kind person who offered a seat to my daughter.

 

 

Yeah, I know you’re judging me

19 Jun

I can feel your eyes watching me. See the frowns, hear the whispers to your mate, feel the weight of your glare.

I know you’re judging me.

You don’t know what is going on, or what the reasons are, you have just chosen to go to instant judgment of my parenting skills. And I’m found lacking.

You can’t wait though to go online and tell people about the person with subpar parenting skills you encountered. You can’t wait to show your superiority by exclaiming you would never do such a thing, because you care about your child. You don’t let your phone distract you. You would never give your child an iPad in public. You only feed your kids healthy snacks. Your child wouldn’t dream of throwing a fit in public. You wouldn’t spoil your child like that.

And when I say “Except we’re dealing with an extraordinary circumstance.”, you’re quick to back peddle.

“Oh, I didn’t mean you!”

Didn’t you?

Because you’re judging complete strangers that you may not have even spoken a word to. Because not every child with a disability looks disabled. Because the things you’re judging these bad parents for are things parents like me go through every day.

“Listen, I know you’re going off about parents making special meals for their kids and that we shouldn’t be short order cooks, but my child with food aversions/allergies only eats 15 things, and I’ll be damned if I’m eating chicken nuggets again in this century.”

“Oh! I didn’t mean YOU! I just meant this other parent I don’t actually know!”

“Yeah I gave her my iPhone to watch a movie on while we were at the coffee shop with friends. I actually wanted to talk to my friend and my kid thought we should leave as soon as he swallowed his last bite of cookie. I was desperately trying to milk out another fifteen minutes because I only get out of the house twice a year.”

“Oh! I didn’t mean youuuuuuuuuuuuu….”

No, you didn’t mean me. Except you kind of did. Because you don’t know, when you’re instantly judging that parent you see in public, the background of that parent and child. Because you don’t know them. You have taken the time to judge them, but have not taken the time to learn about them. That could be my daughter and me you’re judging.

And then you go home, you get on the internet, and you proudly proclaim that you’re totally judging that parent you saw handing their kid a device in a restaurant, or promising their daughter a treat if she’d just stop screaming.

And yet…and yet…if parents like me didn’t do all the things we were judged for above, then we’d be judged for not being able to control our kids. We’d have people in the next booth complaining to waiters that our child was being too loud and annoying. We’d be told that we shouldn’t bring “kids like ours” out into public where other people are trying to enjoy themselves. We are told how “a good spanking” would solve our kids behavior issues. Which is why your judgment of me falls on deaf ears. I stopped caring about what you think of my parenting child a decade ago and just do what I need to do.

I get it – we all judge people. Sometimes, those judgments are spot on. Hitler? Bad. Traffic? Annoying. Puppies? Adorable. Judging me a bad parent because you see my three-year-old in a stroller and feel the need to tell me so without knowing why I needed a stroller for my daughter with low muscle tone? Which really did happen to me? Rude.

Listen, I know not everyone is always going to pick up on my daughter’s differences, because they aren’t on a billboard above her head in flashing neon lights. But she happens to be my fourth kid, and I know I’ve been judged on the behaviors of my other three offspring as well. And people are so quick to judge. They don’t know if the kid is having a bad day because they were up late the night before. They don’t know if mom is dealing with post-partum depression. They don’t know dad is letting the kids ruin their dinner with ice cream because mom’s in the hospital being treated for cancer. They don’t know that those three kids with devices in their faces are only allowed those devices while waiting for their baby sister to go through yet another therapy session or doctor’s appointment, and those three kids are dragged to every appointment because dad’s working and mom can’t get a sitter. And mom knows how boring it all is. So got them devices to play on to make sitting in waiting rooms and hallways easier on everyone.

They don’t know.

You don’t know.

I don’t even know.

How about this? How about instead of judging parents, or defending your judgment, or trying to excuse your judgment…how about you just don’t judge those average everyday parents who are just trying to get through a store or a meal? Or maybe, you can judge them a little in the privacy of your own head, but keep your mouth shut and your fingers still? Maybe don’t broadcast that judgment to the internet.

Because everyone has an off day, and that parent your judging may really really not need that extra crap loaded onto them on that off day.

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