instinct

Where’s The Line?

Mama bear instinct. Most mothers have it. That need to protect, not only our own children, but any child we see being neglected or abused.

I used to be very vocal in my judgment of parents who weren’t, in my view, perfect.

That, of course, would be before I had a child with special needs.

And let me digress for a moment and say something about those two words ‘special needs’. I’ve always hesitated to use them in regard to Vista. Outwardly she appears normal. Most people passing her on the street would never guess she’s anything but. She looks just like your kid, and your kid, and yours. Only she’s not.

Did you spend an hour this morning laying in bed with your child, not cuddling them, but restraining them while they shrieked and screamed and fought to get their hands free so they could punch and hit and attack you, as you softly talked and sang to them, trying to refocus their attention and calm them down? No? I did. But you’d never know that to look at my daughter, happily playing an hour later, while I still struggled to suppress the anger and frustration I felt over the incident. That was before 7am this morning. And that is not an unusual way to start or end my days. But, she looks normal.

And that exasperation may have come through as I snapped at her as she dawdled to the truck, fiddling with her umbrella in the rain, this morning. “I’m wet, you’re wet, group starts in 10 minutes… LET’S GO!”

But all you would have seen is me snap at her. And I’m sure the words “What a bitch” would have flitted through your mind as you walk past and felt sorry for my daughter at having such a horrible mother. You wouldn’t have noticed the long sleeve shirt and jeans I was wearing to cover the bruises left from her lashing out yet again. Nor would you have noticed the cap I was wearing to hide the fact the hour spent restraining her had used up the spare moments I might have had to grab a shower or even actually run a brush through my hair.

And yet, there you would have stood in judgment because that mama bear instinct is to protect the child…not the parent.

That’s why I struggle when I read posts like this one that Janna at The Adventure of Motherhood wrote on the BlogHer site.

I don’t condone the actions of the parent.  Did she cross over that invisible line of what is acceptable in private, never mind public?  Yes, probably.

But consider this, if you will.  Every mother out there has had one of those days where they’re at their wits end with their children.  Where they just want to escape and can’t handle one more second of the whining/fighting/arguing/tantrums/crying/insert your child’s favorite button-pushing behavior here.  Now imagine having those days EVERY DAY FOR MONTHS ON END.  That can be what having a special need child is like sometimes.  At some point, if you don’t have the supports in place to help you deal with this sort of stuff (like I’m lucky that we do), you will lose it.  And sometimes that happens in public.

I’m not saying the child in this story Janna wrote about was special needs.  I don’t know.  I have no idea what issues the mother might be dealing with.  Because Janna’s instinct was to protect the child and say “I can do this better”.

Rather than approach the mom with an accusatory sentence of “I don’t think you should talk that way to your son,”  as most of us (myself included) instinctually would, why not go up and say “Is there anything I can do to help you?”

Find out what is going on that has brought them to the point that they have completely lost it in public.

And they may not want your help, and there may be nothing you can do.

But never think you can do it better until you know what’s really going on and have walked a mile in their shoes.

We are so quick to judge and hate each other.  Would it be so bad to hold out a hand instead and say “I understand.  Let me help”?

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