Before You Judge My Parenting Skills…
When you see my child having a complete throw-down temper tantrum in the store, please don’t assume she’s just spoiled and throwing a fit because I won’t buy her something.
When you see my child crying and me standing there not comforting her, please don’t assume it’s because I’m an unfeeling parent.
When you see my child sitting in a restaurant watching a DVD player or playing with an iTouch with headphones in her hears as she watches videos, please don’t assume we are bad parents who sit our child in front of the TV all day.
When you see my child walking through the mall with a backpack leash on, please don’t assume it’s because I’m a lazy parent who can’t control my toddler.
We live in a reality very different from yours.
A store with lots of smells and noise quickly causes sensory overload for my daughter. She screams and yells and lashes out and throws herself at me because she has no other way of dealing with her overwhelmed senses.
When she is crying and upset, sometimes it is also because of sensory overload. For me to pick her up, touch her, comfort her with words, would just add to the sensory stimulation and make the situation worse. So I stand next to her. Not touch her. Not saying anything. And wait for her to start to calm. Then I quickly try to refocus her attention on something pleasant for her.
You may see me at this point hand her the iTouch. It’s not because I don’t want to deal with her. It’s because after two years of trial and error, we have found an iTouch loaded with coloring / counting / alphabet games and her favorite videos is an effective escape for her. She is able to focus on it and shut out the external sensory stimulation and therefore calm herself.
A restaurant with loud background music, people talking, weird lighting, is especially overstimulating. Without a DVD or iTouch to block the sounds and sights, we have less than 5 minutes before you will she her with hands over her ears screaming “TOO LOUD!” over and over. Then she will start yelling and signing “All done. All done!”. Her way of letting us know she needs to get out of that situation and it is too much for her. Yes, we could lock ourselves in our house and never take her out to a restaurant. But we want to experience things in her way. So we choose to use distractions to allow us all to enjoy a meal out without disturbing the other patrons.
And when you see us walking with Vista and she has her backpack leash on it’s not because we have no control over her. Exactly the opposite. But to hold our hands in a mall setting is too overstimulating. The sights, sounds, lights plus the added sensation of touch is too much. So we use the leash instead. The clasps on the backpack that go across her chest and hold it tight to her back, also act as a compression which helps calm and focus her.
So the next time you see my child, any child, acting out; the next time you see parents who are not parenting the way you think they should; stop and consider. What is going on behind the scenes that you have no information on. Just because kids look normal, doesn’t mean they live in the same world you do.
I don’t know anything about your life. Please don’t assume you know anything about mine from seeing one two minute interaction with my child.