Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Picnics on Aisle Three

To start, this post is written out of love and compassion - something even I, as the parent of a special-needs child, have had to learn over the years. Because believe me, I've put my foot in my mouth and regretted certain actions I've taken in the past. And no matter how hard I try, no person, or parent for that matter, is perfect. This, I know to be true. And, I'm sorry!

Moving on to the point of this post... parent-shaming. Or in other words, adult bullying.

I'm writing this post in response to a photo I saw on Facebook recently, of two parents in public with leashes on their children. A picture taken discreetly by a former special education teacher, of a family, that we, as a community of critics, knew nothing about - a picture that was swiftly removed with comments ranging from confusion, anger, and acceptance, to just plain ignorance. My heart hurt (and my blood boiled, I won't lie) for the family, for the "problematic parents" as they were called.

I can sympathize with this mother and father, because I undoubtedly get "parent-shamed" when I'm in public with my family. Or rather, when I'm "out" with my children. In fact, probably more times than I would like, or even care to know? Points of possible criticism: why does that mother "demand" to hold her son's hand so tightly, why can't that mother "quiet" her child who's chirping like a bird on the floor of the grocery store, why can't that mother "keep" shoes on her child's feet, why can't that mother just "relax" and chill out? (The list goes on, I know.) And my response would be...

Because I do hear your questions, spoken or not (they're in my head, too), and I also see your stares (even when my eyes are fixed and I'm not looking), oh, and funny enough, I only wish for harmony and ease - just like you...


Don't speculate, gawk, or let hurtful comments slip. And don't, just please don't, take pictures! Instead, offer to help - if you can? Or, just keep moving, go about your day. Walk away thankful your circumstance is better, and try for just a moment, if you're still perplexed, to be empathetic.

Because as worn out as the phrase may be, it does hold strong - walk a day in another man's shoes.

In closing, I realize the person who posted this picture was not trying to be overtly malicious. It was a hasty decision borne of confusion, that as she said, "opened a can of worms." To take it a step further, I appreciate her choice to both help and teach children with special-needs, but even though she "gets it 100%" and understands the long list of adverse behaviors associated with autism, in particular, she doesn't live with it, day in and out.

And while I have the utmost admiration for those individuals that devote their professional lives to the cause of betterment - teachers, therapists, doctors - the parents, oftentimes, don't have the same technical wherewithal to prosper in stressful situations. More often than not, we have to lead with the heart alone, and sometimes, as "disrespectful and demoralizing" as it may appear, there are leashes involved - or in our case, random picnics on aisle three.

I hope to open one person's eyes, or give strength to one family struggling... YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

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