The Comments You Hear From People Who Don't Understand Your Child's Disabilities
When it comes to pass-remarkable comments about my parenting, I’ve tended to let them go in the past. (OK, I’ll admit I may have fetched my imaginary voodoo doll once or twice…) Let’s be honest, pretty much all parents encounter them every so often, be it for giving in to a tantrum “too easily” or co-sleeping on a bad night.
I’ve had my fair share when it comes to my son Brody, more so when he was younger and it was unclear to everyone that he had disabilities. When your child’s disability isn’t immediately visible, some people see you as a “helicopter parent.” They just don’t get it. And they don’t get your child. I admit I was a renowned worrier pre-kids, but when it comes to my little boy, I need to make sure he is safe. Because he may not be able to.
“But he’ll eat it if he’s hungry.” I heard this when he couldn’t eat finger foods and could only manage smooth baby jars until just before he was 2. To some people, not feeding him would have “fixed” his sensory issues and inability to chew. Never mind the challenges he experienced on our long weaning journey.
“Why is he gagging? Don’t be silly, Brody!” I heard this when he gagged while touching wet washing or the colored spaghetti I had thought would be fun for him to explore. This had to do with predictable — and yet majorly unpredictable at times — sensory processing disorder. I’ve learned along the way this is a hard one for a lot of people to understand (admittedly it still surprises me sometimes).
“I think what he needs is to not be around Mummy all the time.” I heard this when he was significantly delayed in all aspects of communication, understanding and gross and fine motor skills. Voodoo doll was reached for here. More than once.
“I wish my child got free nursery hours.” I heard this when he got an earlier placement just before his third birthday because his pediatrician had recommended that it might help his development to be around other children.
“Why does he need a wheelchair? He can walk.” Sigh. I will write later about this one.
“Have you thought about potty-training him?” I. Can’t. Even. Just smile and nod! (We’re actually about to try this now.)
I was recently told by an old friend that I shouldn’t refer to Brody as nonverbal because I was apparently labeling him and using negative language. Had I not heard that Einstein didn’t talk until he was 4 years old? (Never. Once. Honest.)
I have at times lost my ability to channel my inner Dory and keep swimming. But then, I shake it off. People judge. That’s life, isn’t it? Sometimes parents judge other parents by their own standards or ideals. Sometimes this is well-intentioned — even if it doesn’t feel like it.
We are our children’s biggest supporters. We are their constant. And always will be.
We celebrate every milestone and every achievement. We love them for everything they can do and everything they can’t.
They are perfectly perfect. No one can love them more.
And no one can tell us otherwise.
Follow this journey on Brody, Me & GDD.