Parenting Expert

It’s been my experience that many people who consider themselves ‘parenting experts’ are those who have managed to raise one or or more perfectly normal little children.

It’s rare to hear a parent of a special needs child refer to themselves as an expert in anything.

We quickly learn that what works for ‘most kids’, rarely, if ever, works for ours.

And so we’re left slogging through trying to come up with something, anything that will work.

Because what works today, probably isn’t going to work tomorrow, or an hour from now.

I can’t even begin to communicate the level of frustration that brings.

And yet for the solutions we do find that we manage to make work we are look down on and called out by parenting experts and even other parents.


According to one of the parenting experts on twitter, this means I’m treating my child like an animal.

*insert tears of frustration here*

Never mind the fact that Vista actually LIKES to wear her backpack.  She often brings it to me and asks to wear it around the house.

Never mind the fact it’s an easy, no fight, solution to walking around busy places with lots of people.

It was suggested I use a ring-sling as a harness.  That would be great for 5, 10, maybe even 15 minutes.  But for a 1 or 2 hour walk with a 45lb Amazon 3yr old? With a child who often can’t bare to hold hands because of the feel of it? A child to whom a gentle guiding hand could cause a complete meltdown because I touched her?  A child who will wonder off and not even consider where mom and dad are?  A child who would walk off with a stranger without a second thought?  Uhhh….yeah….

But I’m treating her like an animal because I put her backpack leash on her.

Well parenting experts, you come spend a day with me.

You go through the 2 – 3 hour battle of the meds in the morning.  These meds are not optional.  She must have them.  Not taking them could result in seizures that could kill her.

You take a child with sensory issues, epilepsy, and other brain issues, for a lovely walk in a crowded place with just a ring sling.  Don’t forget the behind-the-head headphones to help her block out the sounds.  And a package of wipes just in case she accidentally touches something and starts screaming about her fingers being dirty.

Then come home and start battle #2 of the meds.

Now it’s time to fix dinner.  Don’t forget the bowl you serve it in cannot be warm or it’s considered hot and no food will be eaten.

Oh, no, you don’t get to eat dinner too.  No, this is where you sit and help the child with their spoon or fork, because at 3 years old they still aren’t able to manage it.

Now it’s time for battle #3 of the meds.

Tired yet?

Oh well, you still have to give the kid a bath and put her to bed.   Don’t forget that no water can get anywhere near the face or it’ll be an epic meltdown.  Oh, and brushing her teeth will require a specific tooth brush (her choice, it changes daily.  But don’t use the wrong one or…yeah, epic melt down).  Oh, and if you pick the wrong toothpaste?  Then you’ve just extended bedtime by half an hour while you calm her down.

Yeah, good luck with that.

If you make it through the day without ending up in tears yourself, then maybe I’ll consider your advice.

But only maybe.

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36 Responses to Parenting Expert

  • Aw hell. Tell her to shove it. She has no idea the differences in your situations. And failing that, I know it’s hard, but you have to ignore it and just know that you and Bil are doing the very best you can do. Also know that for every one person who thinks you may be doing it wrong, there are at least 2 more that think you are doing it right. It really gets to me that people would say stuff like that to you especially when they have no experience parenting a child like Vista. Ugh! Rant over. I love you Jenn and I think you’re doing fabulous.

    Jenn Reply:

    @Ashleigh @leighish,
    I think part of it is because she ‘looks’ normal, people assume she is. It’s all about assumptions. Wrong assumptions, but that’s par for the course

  • dad says:

    No one, and I mean *no one*, is perfect… and you know what? The more perfect and expert people project themselves… they are quite possibly some of the most flawed people you know.

    Asking them to walk a mile in your shoes probably won’t work unless they actually have the balls to do it.

  • Lisa says:

    I’ve never understood the aversion to backpack leashes some people have. I mean if it works and the kid doesn’t care who the hell cares!!! You are an awesome mom, you are the perfect mom for Vista, don’t let anyone ever tell you any different. Hugs mama.

    Jenn Reply:

    Thank you so much for your unwavering support, Lisa. It means so much. xoxo

  • from the sounds of it, this “expert” and others alike end up being experts at making parents feel horrible… and that in itself is an epic failure and grossly unfortunate.

    you are a wonderful mother and i love you.

    Jenn Reply:

    @nic @mybottlesup,

    Once again, you make an excellent point. What is an expert but someone saying ‘you’re doing it wrong. Let me show you how to do it right’.
    I think we put enough pressure on ourselves as parents. We don’t need a stranger adding to it.

  • Angi says:

    I don’t care what the situation…I truly believe EVERY child is different. My two, who are relatively healthy, happy children…are polar opposite, except when they’re EXACTLY.THE.SAME. Because of this, I don’t believe there is such a thing as a parenting expert. Only those people willing to give people advice, needed or not. Parenting is different for everyone of us. And it seems to me, kids who are raised in loving homes (one or two, mom & dad, mom & mom, dad & dad, grandparents, etc) turn out ok. Sometimes, that’s all we can do…is love them, unconditionally. Keep your chin up, Jenn. Vista is so lucky to have both you and Bil. She is loved, every day…and it shows.

    Jenn Reply:


    I totally agree. 10 years from now our kids will remember they were loved. Not that we used a backpack leash on them when they were 3.

  • ally says:

    You have to do whatever works for YOU. I know it is so hard to ignore the people who feel the need to tell you how you manage is wrong.

    But you ARE managing…and Vista is being taken care of. Thats all that matters.

    Jenn Reply:


    lol. Managing. I’m the duck who’s calm on the surface and paddling for my life below. :-)

  • Lu says:

    I have no idea who you are talking about…BUT it doesn’t matter. Everybody thinks they are a fucking parenting expert. We all have our things that we think for one reason we know better than some people on this or that aspect. I happen to be a car-seat freak. I know a lot. Compared to some parents I know A LOT more about that. But I am no fucking expert. I will let you know when I am on the Today Show though.

    In all seriousness though, in the end, it comes down to judgement. People constantly judging others for their parenting decisions. It’s shitty and it will never go away.
    Mason isn’t special needs and people still don’t know how we do it. I don’t either some days. He is particular, head strong, stuck in a routine, and right about everything b/c he is 3 and his father’s son.

    Jenn Reply:


    I’m one of those people who will straight up say I don’t know how you manage having a busy, rambunctious little boy. It exhausts me to see pictures of him go-go-going. lol

    But you’re right. People are full of judgements. I just hope one day all their ‘helpful’ advice comes back to bite them in the ass

  • Bil Simser says:

    You are an awesome Mom. You are doing a great job. I love you.

    Jenn Reply:

    @Bil Simser,

    I don’t know whether to laugh or tell you you’re sleeping on the couch tonight.
    No wonder our daughter takes everything so literally. She gets it from her father. lol

  • Tricia says:

    GAH! What is it with the USA and their aversion to what are called “reins” and yes, you can laugh in Europe and have been used for as long as I can remember. My Mom had five us of us in a straight row and she HAD to use them to keep us close and safe. I used them with M and she had no sensory or other challenging issues like V. HOW DARE someone else judge you for a safe, effective way of giving your child some freedom, but keeping her safe at the same time. I bet none of them have walked in your shoes and if they’re that narrow minded, probably wouldn’t be fit to walk in them.

    This is the problem with today’s culture I think. Too much child centered parenting, without ever considering safety or limits or survival. It’s got to the point in England now, where a teacher or caregiver isn’t allowed to HUG a child in case it is construed as child abuse. It’s like common sense has gone out the window.

    I love the idea of the reins or backpack strap. WHY THE HELL NOt? And I take my hat off to you as an amazing mother who has incredible challenges and should be admired, not crtisised. GAH again!
    *hugs* Jenn. You are an awesome parent and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

    Jenn Reply:


    Europeans are smart. They don’t get hung up on superficial rules that society arbitrarily makes up. I think I need to move. With my attitudes around sex and parenting, I’m obviously living on the wrong continent.

    Child centered parenting. I think that’s exactly it. At some point we have to remember we are the parents and we need to make the decisions, not them.

  • Chibi Jeebs says:

    Okay, here come’s the “childless expert” opinion. (*wink*)

    Until someone walks a mile in your shoes, just as you said above, s/he has NO RIGHT to judge. NO RIGHT. They can offer diplomatic opinions consisting of carefully chosen words, but they can keep their assvice to themselves. (We have a friend whose girlfriend has read *a* book and now fully considers herself an expert on how HIS daughter should be progressing. I’ve told C that if I *ever* start to take on that tone, he’s to slap me upside the head.)

    Fact of the matter is that every PERSON in every SITUATION is different: making grand proclamations of how something SHOULD be done or handled just makes you look like a know-it-all asshole.

    You are an awesome mom. Period.

    (Yeah, that may have been a grand proclamation: suck it. xoxo)

    Jenn Reply:

    @Chibi Jeebs,

    LOL. I love you. You totally make me smile every time we talk.

  • Well, for the record, I am a parenting expert, but a parenting expert for the rest of us. I’m def not one of those floofy ones whose kids always match (in fact, if they DO match, it’s a victory). You do what works for you. Period. and tell everyone else to eff off. That’s my motto!!

  • Leigh-Anne says:

    My kids have both had “leashes” on at some point in their lives. You do what you need to do to keep your child safe in each and every situation. End of story. You do WHATEVER you need to do.

    I second 110% what Bil said. You are an AWESOME Mom, doing a GREAT job… and I love you.

  • Tyrone M. says:

    My mother in law (who I love, and is great to all of us) once said “why are you using the harness?”

    We replied, “She’s a runner. You want to chase her?” She insisted it’s no big deal.

    Once she took off, she immediately put it on her. This was at a big jazz festival.

    And we never answered that question again.

    Kudos to you, this parenting this is way harder than it looks most days.

  • Heather says:

    Sigh. I KNOW!

    Also, Clothes are an issue, we don’t EVER dare wear shoes, and water cannot come within 90 feet of us–no rain, no sun either.

    GAH. I hate parenting experts. Seriously, who names themselves that?

    That commune is starting to sound better and better isn’t it?

  • Michelle P. says:

    Hugs. As an “expert” (yah right) I strongly suggest you go pour yourself a glass of wine. My biggest advice, if you aren’t taking care of yourself right, you can’t take care of your kid(s).

  • Maria says:

    When someone gets openly upset about something I’ve done as a parent (crying it out, for example) I have such a hard time not reacting. HARD. Like RE-ACTING. I feel ya, lady.

    We’re all parenting experts at parenting our own children. No one, NO ONE else can do it better.

  • Merry120 says:

    All children are different. It makes me cringe when people decide that they *must* teach you how to raise your children (who they’ve often never met). Drives me NUTS. You are doing a great job and I can tell you love your child. That is all that matters!

  • You ARE the parenting expert of parenting YOUR child. No one else can tell you how to do it better. Chin up and hang in there ’cause it sounds like you’re doing an amazing job. I’m in awe of what you do everyday.

  • Wow. I cannot imagine a day in your shoes. Truly. You are doing the best you can in a very difficult situation. I think your little one is lucky to have you. And poop on the ones who think you’re being mean with the backpack/leash. You continue to do what is best for Vista. And for you.

  • Oh, Jenn :( Some people need to learn how to shut it! This is the thing I hate…. people thinking that they just know it all. Well guess people, what might work for you sure hell might not work for me… and what works for me might seem like it’s insane to you ~ how about we do what we do with our own and STOP THE FLIPPING JUDGING.

    I’m so sorry (((HUGS)))

  • I thought I knew it all when I had that perfect only child. I was so self-righteous and full of myself. And then there was Dylan. Oy. Fuck you breastfeeding, fuck you cosleeping, fuck you wearing baby in a sling, fuck you trying to comfort your baby to sleep and hell that was just the first few months of everything that failed that worked so damn perfectly with child number 1.
    I used to joke that Jane Nelson author of Positive Parenting wouldn’t make it a day with my son. I’m holding to that too. I’m sorry, but I had to do what worked for my special needs kid who to all others looked normal.
    I’m no longer an expert. I fail every day. Hell I just pray to God that I don’t fuck them up too bad.
    Now Jenn, give me that leash so I can go beat the “experts” ass who said such crap.
    O wait, that would be bad wouldn’t it?

  • EatPlayLove says:

    Parenting expert? Pshaw! We all have our journey and what it takes you to get there is not going to be what it takes me to get there, but aren’t we in this together? Attitude bugs me, especially when we need to be rallying around one another not judging.

  • Nadine says:

    I really really really admire you.
    People who say such awful things, about you treating your daughter like an animal, can’t possibly be experts. No one who actually has an idea of how a mother loves her child would say such a thing.
    Don’t let such people bring you down. I’m a new mom and I can only hope to become as patient as you with my kid.

  • laura says:

    I am so with you on this. After having a child with ADHD, and two kids with severe colic I stopped listening to “the experts” bc as I’ve learned, they don’t know shit. As you said, what works for one child doesn’t always work for another. I get told to me less strict with my ADHD child, let my newborn with colic scream (at which point her would vomit everywhere) I’ve learned my own way around my children, and I applaud you for doing the same with V. If a backpack helps you and her be easier to be in public, then I say go for it. What works for you is what you do!!
    Hugs to you, V and B.

  • Dre says:

    When I put my kid in a crate so that I can go to work all day? Then someone can say I treat my kid like an animal. My kids both LOVED their “leash” and in fact, continue to put it on their dolls while they play house.

    Alison was the most perfect, easy child for the first 4 years. Blythe? The child has NO FEAR. And a high pain tolerance. And her SPD, OCD and the fact that I can’t even let her rub her face up against something in the store without her having an allergic reaction all add up to this: I will do whatever it takes to keep her safe, and that includes things that other parents might consider crazy.

    In my opinion, you go with what works. And the sooner people quit judging others for their parenting, the sooner I’ll help them remove the stick that is apparently lodged in their nether regions.

    You are amazing and wonderful. But I’ve already told you that!

  • Kellee says:

    Yeah, people that judge you can go take a leap.

  • Cranky Sarah says:

    It doesn’t matter what special circumstances a family is dealing with or if there are none at all. There will always be someone out there dispensing their judgment and calling it “expert” and worse calling it “advice.” It always stings at first when we hear such crap, but hopefully enough time has passed that you can dismiss it for what it was – trash.

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