An Open Apology to a Special Needs Parent
I am less than perfect. I have no difficulty admitting that although, I confess, it wasn’t always so easy. But parenting does that to you. Among other things, it continually smacks you in the face with the fact that there is so much you just don’t know (and never knew that you’d need to know), as well as the fact that you’re not only not perfect, but all too often you’re just barely adequate. Once you recognize that you’ll never be perfect as a parent (and that’s okay, and likely a blog post for another day), it’s not that big a leap to admit you’re not perfect as a person.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I try—I’m always trying. And really, isn’t it the striving for perfection that brings out the best in us?
My confession to you is that, in recognizing my imperfections, I recognize the occasions that I’ve been THAT person. It wasn’t intentional, but I’ve done it. I’ve judged you.
Not so much for the meltdown in the supermarket. Screaming children having some sort of episode–I have experience with that. I understand being mortified among strangers and also how difficult it is to not always have control of what happens when you leave the relatively safety of your own home. I’m also sympathetic to the fact that some things are just beyond a parent’s energy to deal with. My hand is raised: Been there, done that.
If I see it happening to you I will offer my help, in whatever way you can use it, though I know you will likely turn me down. We will share a smile that’s more of a wry grimace. The battle-weary always recognize one another.
But I have judged you in the restaurant and the mall, and whatever other place that you’ve sat down to enjoy a quiet moment—by yourself, with your spouse, with a friend—and you’ve handed your phone or other electronic device to your kid so that they’re quietly entertained and, more importantly, leaving you alone.
Oh yes, I’ve judged. Because, while I freely admit that I’m not a perfect parent, I do take immense satisfaction in the fact that my family can go out to dinner unencumbered by electronic devices, and actually talk to one another while we eat. My husband and I have, in the past, commented on people around us who let their kids play on their phone or tablet during the meal, appearing to not actually want them there, but perhaps stuck with them because they didn’t have a grandparent, babysitter, or other person to watch them.
I had never before considered that the device was for the benefit of the child, and not the adult. That without it, he or she might not be able to sit still, settle in, acclimate to a strange place, keep from freaking out. In essence, the device is giving your child a tool with which to self soothe. This means that, far from being a “bad parent,” you indeed have your child’s best interests at heart.
And, so, I apologize. You might not even care: You shouldn’t care about the opinions of others when you’re doing the best for your child. After all, parenting is a highly personal thing.
But I’m apologizing anyway. Because I was wrong. Because it wasn’t my business. Because this parenting thing is hard enough without having to deal with the scrutiny of others.
Because not one of us has the right to judge another.
Rachel L. MacAulay
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