I wrote the following in my prayer journal recently:
When I go places with my son, others see a “normal” looking child who misbehaves, who screams, who cries, and a mother who toggles between ignoring his behaviors and giving in to them. But what they don’t know, Lord, what they can’t see, are the dozens of battles I fight every day both with and for my son. They don’t see the countless phone calls I make to doctors and specialists and therapists and teachers in the margins between my son’s meltdowns and confusion, therapies and appointments. They don’t see that sometimes I need to ignore his behaviors some days, while I must give in to them on others. They don’t see how exhausting this journey is.
They don’t see.
And then, a few days later, my children and I met up with a dear friend and her two boys at the park. While we were there, our sons did beautifully. They played well both together and apart. They did not argue with us or have meltdowns. They played for three full hours, and for the first time in weeks, I saw joy on my son’s face.
As our family was leaving, a man walked up to me and told me that my friend and I were not good role models for our children. That we allowed our sons to leave toys (which belong to the park) in the park without putting them back exactly where they got them from. When I gently explained that our children have special needs, he claimed to work with children on the spectrum, turned up his nose, and informed me that we need to do better. Essentially he said that we are terrible parents.
And my weary heart was resurged. I looked him in the eye, smiled, and kindly thanked him for expressing his concerns, then pointed out that he did not know our families, our journey, or how hard we work each and every day for our children. That picking up the toys was not a battle we chose to fight among the many we had already throughout the day. That I would be happy to chat with him, to have a friendly, open discussion about my son’s needs, but to corner me and judge our families and our sons without knowing us or seeking to know us was inappropriate. When he tried to argue with me, I pointed out that extending a caring hand would have gone much farther than his judgment. In regard to his profession, I asked him if he addressed his clients or his clients’ parents in the manner in which he had spoken to me. He had no answer, and eventually walked away.
To the mom who feels weary, stay strong. I know you live fatigue in a way that can never be fully explained. You see pictures of friends who lead “normal” lives and long for what they have. You stand in the face of judgment from others who if they only got to know you, would come to understand you and the choices you must make. Stay courageous. Don’t back down from ignorance, but don’t give in to it either. Stay calm. Stay true. Smile, even when the world wants you to cower and cry. And, above all, let the love you have for your children radiate from all you say and do.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)