I’ve always claimed I didn’t care what others thought about me but the truth is, I did.
And now I don’t.
Especially my parenting.
I no longer care if other people judge my parenting. And I won’t judge theirs. It took me a looonnnngggg time to get to this place but I can tell you this – if you can let go of caring what others think, people who love and support you will show up in your life.
My Son, Matthew has Autism and went through his “terrible twos” when he was six – with six-year-old size and six-year-old strength. Like many Mothers of Special Needs Children, I too have a story of the temper tantrum in public to share.
I’ll never forget it.
I can close my eyes and see it as though it was yesterday. We had just gone to the grocery store and I was going through the produce section. I don’t know what what set Matthew off, but all of a sudden he was having a complete meltdown. He had been sitting in the basket portion of the shopping cart and was now kicking and screaming as though someone was beating him up. I knew that the more I tried to calm him down the more upset he would get.
There were lot’s of other Moms with their kids shopping at the time; all staring at us and whispering. No really. All of them. Staring and whispering. At my son. At me. At us.
Well at least it felt that way. I mean, here was a child who appeared to be old enough to behave better. My then 7 ½-year-old Daughter was with us so clearly I wasn’t a rookie Mom and “should have known better” than to allow my child to behave in such a manner.
I knew that there was nothing I could do to help Matthew except keep him safe and keeping him safe was not having him try to throw himself out of a shopping cart.
I had to weigh several options
- How to keep my daughter safe when she was sitting in the seat of the shopping cart.
- Should I try to complete my shopping when Matthew was a whirling dervish in the basket section?
- If I chose to leave, how could I safely navigate out of the store and to the car with him kicking and screaming?
- Should I just try and find a quiet corner of the store where I could just let it play out?
I chose Option #4.
Amid all the stares from the other Moms and their Kids and all the whispers and all pointing fingers I simply went to the back of the store near where the bathrooms are removed Elisabeth from the cart so she could sit quietly in a chair and then simply let Matthew straighten himself out.
I was sad for my crying child and fearful, trying to protect my other child, mortified and embarrassed and a whole host of other emotions, including angry at the world, at Matthew and at anybody and everybody who I could think of to be angry with.
That afternoon as I watched my Angel sleeping during his nap, I decided that none of those other people mattered. I would not give them the power to embarrass me. I would not give them the power to hurt me. I would not give them the power to make me angry. I would not give them the power to rob me of my peace of mind.
But could I help my Daughter get to this place?
Elisabeth was no longer taking naps at this age so she was having a snack. I went into the kitchen and had a very frank, rather adult conversation with her. I tried to explain her brother to her. I don’t know if she understood. She clearly was not happy with the situation and having to deal with her brother who was, in her eyes, misbehaving didn’t sit well with her. I tried to explain it as best I could and over the years I think she’s really come to understand. I think over the years she’s learned a lot from him in that he doesn’t judge people and he doesn’t care if they judge him, at least on any level that we can see.
I know I’ve learned a lot from him in that regard and I no longer judge people or at least I try not to. And I truly no longer care if they judge me because I know that what they’re judging isn’t me it’s what they’re seeing and their picture is not a complete one.
So judge away world. Who cares?