Months and months ago, someone posted on Facebook how disgusted they were by a family who changed their toddler's diaper on a picnic table at a water park. I thought to myself, "I've done that with Sadie..." so I commented reminding this person that before they judge, they should take into consideration what they may not know about this family. Maybe the child is autistic and is FREAKED out by flushing toilets or tile floors. Maybe there is no changing table in the bathroom. Maybe the parent has some kind of disability or impairment and therefore it was easier to just change the child outside. WHO KNOWS??? But how often do we do this? How often to do we judge someone or make comments about their actions without even knowing them?
I used to do this a lot (I still catch myself doing it when I drive!), but now I'm a little more tolerant...especially of people with children.
I know that sometimes taking a normal child out in public is a struggle. They get overtired and cry and throw fits. They want something and if you tell them NO, they throw themselves on the floor in the middle of WalMart and start screaming. Heaven forbid they have a potty accident in the middle of The Home Depot!! Who knows where the bathroom is in that place?! (actually, I do, when I was pregnant I think I visited every bathroom possible in this city, I must hold some kind of record or something) And all these are just from a normal child, a child that 99% of the public are familiar with.
But what about a child with special needs? How much more complicated can a trip out in public get? Well, it depends on your child. Someone I know just posted a story on Facebook about an incident in WalMart today with her autistic son trying to take something from someone else's cart. I took Sadie to Chipotle last week and tried to sit outside where I wouldn't bother anyone, but there was only 1 table available in the shade and unfortunately it was right next to a couple of ladies trying to enjoy their lunch break. And unfortunately Sadie was tired and whiney-screamy. There are still things we need to do in our lives, and sometimes that means that our children with special needs might bother you in a public place.
I don't think the mass public gets it. And that makes me sad.
Recently, someone I know posted a video on his Facebook page that he took of a child in the airport when returning from his honeymoon. This child was obviously overtired and whiney and couldn't decide if he was mad or sad or overstimulated. He just needed a nap, but waiting to board your plane is hardly the place to help your child fall asleep. He titled the video "most annoying cry ever" and his newlywed commented that she wanted to strangle this child. I was horrified.
I can't even imagine someone having the audacity to videotape MY child and then criticize or poke fun at her on Facebook!!
I tried to explain to this newlywed couple that this post was very insensitive and to make judgements about those parents or that child on Facebook was very inappropriate. They don't know if this child has special needs, how strung out that parent was, or even how long they've been traveling or why. My comments were met with a response riddled with ignorance, and I realized that these people don't get it...and don't want to.
You can't expect me to NOT take my child with special needs out in public, or not to travel with her on a plane. The fact is, she CANNOT talk, she CANNOT express herself in any other way but to yell. She yells when she's happy, she yells when she's uncomfortable, when she's in pain, when she's overstimulated by noise or lights or just way too tired. (although we've been having a talk lately about NOT yelling when she's tired, but just taking care of business like a big girl and closing her eyes...Sadie is not seeing things my way yet!) If you're near us, this kind of behavoir might bother you. And even though you might look at my child briefly and think she's a normal baby, she's not. I can't just ooga-booga in her face to make her stop. She doesn't just suck on a pacifier. She can't hold toys in her hands by herself. And she requires a LOT more movement than just holding her and rocking her to calm her down. Therefore, it's not always going to happen in public....not without drugs. And I'm sorry for that. Trust me, I'm aware of your irritation, and I'm really really sorry for being the source of it. But at some point, I have to stop caring what you think and just try to survive. I just hope you realize that. And I hope you don't make judgemental comments about me on Facebook. You have NO IDEA what my life is like!
I made a comment today on Facebook that people should stop wasting their energy on complaining and being offended and start using that energy to educate people on others' differences. So, I'm not here to complain or simply tell a story about how I hope people don't judge me or my child when we're having a breakdown in public, I want to help you realize that not every child is normal...but even the normal ones can sometimes be tough to handle. Please don't be quick to judge parents and/or children in public. Please don't post videos on Facebook of other people's children who may be irritating you in public. And please don't make comments like you were so annoyed you wanted to strangle the child who was bothering you in the airport.
Instead, please try to be tolerant and understanding. If you can, give that struggling parent a smile to show that you sympathize and you're sorry they are having a rough time. I guarantee you they are sorry to be such a bother. Or offer to hold something or carry something for them in the airport, or to let that person go first in the line at the grocery store. Remember to put yourself in their shoes, because, who knows, someday you might be.