To the Lady Who Shook Her Head as My Kids With Special Needs Walked Behind Her

Do you remember me? I was the mom walking behind you yesterday. I know you wanted to turn around and stare. But you didn’t. I heard you ask your son, “Who’s behind us?” He turned around, looked at us and then told you it was three people. And then you shook your head.

Maybe you shook your head because he didn’t give you the full description of us that you were looking for. Maybe you shook your head because you think I’m a bad mom. Or maybe my girls were getting on your nerves. You might’ve been thinking that if I would just discipline my girls then they wouldn’t act like that. Maybe you were thinking that you would never allow your children to act like that in public. I know your thoughts because 10 years ago, I had those same thoughts. It was easy to have those thoughts when our older girls behaved perfectly every time we were in public. I’d never walked in the same shoes that the mom with the misbehaving kids has to walk in. But I wear those shoes now.

I wish you’d seen the strategy that we put into place earlier when we entered the building. You would’ve seen me come in with only one little girl. After I signed us in, you would’ve seen a handsome man enter with another little girl who looks a lot like the little girl standing beside me. You would’ve seen us walk up the hallway just far enough apart so that our girls couldn’t hit each other. Then you would’ve seen our girls hug and kiss us and say “I love you” before they left with their therapists. You would’ve heard a therapist talk about how sweet and loving our girls are. And you would’ve witnessed the amazing look of victory on my face because we made it into the building without making a scene.

I wish you’d seen what happened in the bathroom. I wish someone had seen what happened in the bathroom because I have no idea what happened. All I know is that I went into a stall and I told the girls to stand beside the sinks. And all of a sudden everything was out of control. They were hitting each other and yelling at each other. I wish you could’ve seen that I disciplined them and then I tried to convince them that they should be nice to each other. I wish you could’ve seen me take a deep breath as I pulled the bathroom door open. I wish you’d known that the only thought in my head was to just get out of the building as fast as we could.

I wish you could’ve seen the man walking in front of us when our girls continued to make a scene. He never turned around. He never shook his head. If he judged us, he did it privately. And then we rounded the corner and the girls got louder and more upset. And then we were behind you. I wish you’d realized that the three people behind you have feelings. I wish you’d realized that whispers, stares and shaking your head only make my life harder.

I don’t know if you were still there when I leaned down to sign us out. But it was at that moment that one of my sweethearts hit the other sweetheart on the back of the head with a coloring book. You might not have seen it, but there were many people who did. I was irritated and I was embarrassed. I probably turned about 50 shades of red. If you didn’t see it happen, perhaps you heard the chaos as you were walking to your car.

I wish you could’ve heard me tell my husband about everything that happened. I told him how much it hurt when you shook your head. I wish you knew how defeated I felt. And that I’ve cried many tears over the years because I just simply have no idea what to do. I wish you knew that we are doing the best that we can for our family. But sometimes we have bad days. Sometimes I feel like I can’t possibly do it anymore. And that’s how I was feeling yesterday when you shook your head.

I wish you could see these girls through my eyes. I wish they could touch your heart the way that they touch mine. They’ve been diagnosed with language disorder, articulation disorder, sensory processing disorder, coordination disorder and ADHD. They often giggle endlessly at something most people don’t even notice. They smile and laugh as they run around the yard chasing a butterfly. They get excited when the wind is blowing because flying a kite is one of their favorite things to do. Our girls have shown me how much joy there is in the simple things of life. They help me to see things I couldn’t see before. Every night I hear them say, “I love you, Mommy!” as I kiss them goodnight. Those words are the reason I’m able to keep going when I feel like I can’t take another step.

Next time you see a mom trying to help her kids, could you do something for me? Could you smile and say something kind? Kindness can change her world. If you don’t know what to say, could you show kindness by letting her go in front of you? Could you say a prayer for her?

And I would like to ask you to forgive me for being irritated with you for shaking your head. Because chances are that you walk in a pair of shoes that I don’t have to walk in. And I don’t understand your struggles any more than you understand mine.


The mom who was having a really bad day yesterday

A version of this post originally appeared on Two Upside Down Turtles.

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