Have you ever noticed how judgmental we parents can be of other parents? How we tend to make assumptions about other people and their situations and diagnose their problems (as if we have all of our own stuff figured out!) Shouldn’t we, who are in the trenches of motherhood, be the most understanding and helpful to other moms in need? Instead of giving them dirty looks, jumping to conclusions about their lack of parenting skills, or making rude comments? And if we see a child that is different, shouldn’t we be kind and caring to that child instead of adding to their feelings of isolation by staring and pointing?

A few years ago, I got a tiny taste of what it must feel like to have a child that is different. Caedmon, (who is now a very healthy 5-year-old) was diagnosed with a kidney condition called Nephrotic Syndrome when he was just 1 year old. He was put on steroids for almost 4 months in order to solve the issue. During that time, the steroids caused him to balloon in size. (The photo was taken during treatment.) At one point he got so big he looked like an obese child. Once, a woman walked up to him and said, ‘Well honey, does your mama ever tell you no? You don’t look like you’ve ever missed a meal.” Another time, as we walked in to a restaurant as a family, I saw someone gesture over to us and point to my older two children, then they puffed out their cheeks and pointed at Caedmon, laughing, I guess trying to figure out why he was the only one that looked so “fat.” It crushed me to think that there are children (and moms) who go through this kind of thing their whole lives.

Recently, I received an e-mail from a mom of an autistic child that broke my heart and I felt everyone should read it. I edited the names to protect their identity. This is what it said:

“I don’t know who I am sending this to or why I am sending it, I guess I just need to vent so I am putting it in writing. Most of you know G. and know the issues we have dealt with his entire life. He is such a great boy and works so hard at school and at therapy to overcome his obstacles the best he can. What most of you aren’t aware of, except my playdate friends, is the rudeness we encounter from strangers on a weekly basis when G. acts up in public. I have been very strong and normally don’t let people get to me, but the person today just sent me over my threshold of patience where I felt that I need to tell and ask for help from my friends and family.

So let me just re-enact the scene. I took the kids by myself to Chik-fil-A and G. has gotten really good playing in the play area. C. was sitting at a table with me eating and G. had finished eating so had gone into the play area. There were about 15 kids packed in this small play area and only one way to get into the jungle gym. There were about 5 kids (two of them under two years) clogging up the tunnel to go up. G. climbed right over them, pushing along the way. He does not have a problem pushing kids for no reason, but when they are in his way, he just pushes through because he can’t say, “Hey kid, please move so I can get by.”

Anyway, he pushed a little girl, who was about 18 months old and shouldn’t be in there anyway and she started crying. I immediately went into the play area to have a talk with him, which he responds really well to and the three parents in there were looking for his mom and I heard this man say, “Well obviously there is something going on with him” and I asked who they were talking about and they said the boy in the blue shirt. I said it was my son and he had autism and he doesn’t understand how to wait for the tunnel and not push his way through.

The man and ladies seemed fine and I pulled G. aside and had a long talk with him and then I headed back to the table to check on C., who was all by herself. The man said, ‘You aren’t leaving, are you?”‘and I said, ‘My three year old is out there by herself, do I need to stay?’ and he said, ‘Well the other kids shouldn’t have to be punished because of him.’

I just stood there for a second soaking that statement in and the fire in my head started to boil. G. was so scared at that point that he was playing with a wheel at the bottom and not even near another kid. I told G. he was a good boy but that we needed to leave and I took him back to the table and just started crying. I just want him to be able to play in a play area with other kids. He has had 5 years of multiple therapies, thousands of thousands of dollars spent on getting him “normal” enough to take into public and not have someone say rude things like these. It breaks my heart for him and for me that we are treated like this. This is about the millionth time something like this has happened to me, in fact, I have been trying to come back with a good line to say with when this happens.
So, I don’t have a clue to what you guys can do to help me. I guess, I just wanted to let people see some of the daily life of autism and what we have to deal with on top of all the other things we are dealing with, like insurance and not knowing if our son will ever read or not. It is not an easy life and we don’t complain much about our struggles or the path that God choose for us, but we have them and sometimes it can overcome someone when a rude person makes a comment like this. If you can just take the time when you see a child that has special needs and don’t judge them or stare at them or say mean things to their parents. Instead, ask if you can help with anything, tell them you know someone who has a special little boy and he is the greatest gift ever!

Well, thanks for reading my story, or if it was too long, I am sorry, like I said I just had to vent. If you can pass this along so that people can be made aware of what parents of special needs kiddos have to face just to get a chicken sandwich…”

My heart breaks for that mom and her little boy. We moms need to stick together and be advocates for ALL kids, not just our own. I hope that we can all learn to think before we speak and give people a little grace. You never know what someone is going through and making a rude comment or making assumptions about what you think is going on is never helpful in a situation. Our children need love and acceptance. They need understanding. They need someone to stick up for them and be their friend. Are you teaching your children to be kind to others, or to be critical and judgmental? They are watching every move you make. If we are Christ followers, our hearts need to break for those in need: be it physical, emotional, or spiritual. We need to teach our children and model for them what it looks like to reach out to those in need and give a kind word or some encouragement.
“Then the King will say to those on the right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ ” Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’ And the King will tell them, ‘I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!‘ ” Matt. 25:34-40

God Bless!