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Monday, February 07, 2011

The Ramblings of an Exhausted Mother...Advice not needed at this time...

Do you know someone who loves to give advice? Don’t we all? I love how people think because they’ve been a parent they know exactly what’s wrong with your child. They can look at the situation for all of five minutes and yep—they have diagnosed what’s wrong and they’re going to tell you how to fix the problem.
Come on, truthfully, haven’t we all given advice? I know I have. And advice from those that understand or have knowledge of the situation is awesome. I can’t tell you how I covet the advice and prayers of those that understand what goes on in our home. I especially love talking to other mothers that have parented children that were different. They get it. They know what it’s like to be in my shoes.

Here’s where I get a little sassy. :) What I don’t need is Susie Patootie who’s raised two beautiful children who are perfect in every way telling me what I’ve done wrong. Not when she has no idea who I am or what kind of mother I am. Sounds prideful I know, but stay with me.

Maybe I’m bitter from when our doctor kept telling me Tanner was fine, just love him. I can’t tell you how many times I left that office in tears. I would go home thinking it was me. I must be expecting too much. Maybe I’m over thinking things. Until other professionals starting calling me and telling me they needed to talk about Tanner. Sunday school teachers. Preschool teachers. Other moms that noticed things and in a loving way wanted to share what they’d observed in comparison to the children they’d raised.

Finally, my sister in law who heard about something called Aspergers and ordered me a book so I could read it. The book that changed the way I parent my son. I learned that by parenting him differently, he would be fine. He just saw the world in a little different way. And it was my job to help him figure the world out in a way that made sense to him.

Tanner’s almost 12 and he’s doing so much better. He knows how to convey to me when he’s anxious better than he used to. I still have days where I sit in my room for five minutes and have a good meltdown. But most days are pretty good. One of the things I’m most thankful for is that Tanner is now able to walk down the Asian aisle at the supermarket and not have to pull out the sack he carries everywhere and vomit. (That was a rough couple of years) Now he just looks toward the ceiling and walks really fast. Progress. It’s fabulous.

Still, to this day, I get a lot of well-meaning, though hurtful, advice. I can remember my sister in law, who I love dearly, telling me that her kids are to clean their dinner plate and not complain. So when my son was little I think she thought I was being soft on him when I’d let him get by without eating what was on his plate. As if that was an easy decision. Not something I’d learned the hard way. That if I forced him to eat something he would put it in his mouth and vomit all over the table. Hmmm, didn’t seem as worth it at that point.

So one day he’s staying at her house and she asked what he would eat. I told her grilled cheese. That evening she calls me in a tizzy.

“He won’t eat and he’s freaking out.”

“Freaking out. ” (Hmmm, that doesn’t sound at all like him) “What’s going on?”

“He’s crying and begging me not to make him eat. Please. I don’t eat that. Promise I won’t have to eat that. Please. Please Ninny, etc...”

Yep, sounds like an evening at our house. “What did you make?”

“Toasted cheese sandwiches.”

“Is that what you called them?”

A moment of silence then, “Well, yeah.”

“There’s your problem. He doesn’t eat toasted cheese. He eats grilled cheese.”

“But I make them just like you and you said-”

“I said he eats grilled cheese, not toasted cheese. You will never convince him now that your sandwich is the same as mine not even if you show him how you make it. You called it toasted cheese and that’s not what he eats.”

I hate to admit that I was laughing inside. Not for my son who as she puts it was “freaking out” but for the sheer joy that someone finally saw what it was like in our house. It’s easy to give advice as if you know exactly what’s going on, but you don’t. Not until you’ve lived with a child who sees the world differently can you fully understand how exhausting and how constant it is. How everything you do has to be just so or your whole day will be ruined. Just like that. Now she knows what he’ll eat and that’s all she makes him when we visit. Now who’s the softie? No more meltdowns for her.

I’m not at all saying you should cater to your children or never push them outside their comfort zone. I’m just saying all kids are not alike; so quit putting them all in the same boat. And quit giving advice when you don’t know what you’re talking about. It hurts. It damages.

Instead, just listen to those exhausted looking mothers. Hear what they're saying. Say something kind to her. And if you really have something worth saying, say it. But be slow to judge her parenting skills. You have no idea what it’s like to walk in her shoes.


Shirlee McCoy said...

You're a great mom, Sabrina. Don't ever doubt it. As for the people with too much advice and not enough compassion...I've met my share. At least neither of us are in danger of becoming one. That's something to be thankful for, right?

Sabrina L. Fox said...

Thank you Shirlee! You've been a dear friend to me and I value your input as a mother. :) I know you have your own issues/struggles at home and that makes your kindness and knowledge even more special.

I hope I am a friend to those that need a little grace. I want to be someone that you can confide in and not feel judged. No matter how much of a horrible mother you feel like. That's what I want more than anything. I know what it's like to feel like you've done everything wrong. I never want to make someone feel like that.

Not everyone has had to battle for their children and they don't get it. I'm glad for them, I just wish they could think before they speak sometimes.