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To the Mom Whose Child Acted 'Bratty' Last Night

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Dear Mom,

I realize you have become accustomed to accusing glances when your child cries and refuses to obey you in public. I understand people want to go about their public lives without the noisy interference of “annoying” children. I know this causes you to feel nervous, embarrassed, and perhaps a bit sweaty – you are likely familiar with that itchy, prickly sweat that comes from having a “bratty” child around judgmental adults.

Well, Mom, I am lucky enough to know your little boy personally. I know he has spent most of his 3 and a half years of life seeing doctors, nurses, therapists, and other professionals. I know he has nearly choked to death more than once because of the difficulty he has chewing and swallowing. I know he’s lived through painful surgery. I know he has become frustrated at his inability to communicate; he knows darn well what he wants to say to the world, and his quick mind is betrayed by his health limitations.

I know he has a grin that would make a seasoned criminal suspicious. I know he has the kind of determination and purpose company CEO’s would envy. I know his courage is such that he squares his little shoulders and says goodbye to his beloved mama when he goes to preschool in the mornings, even though he’s frightened to be away from you. I know he rushes to see you after school each day, except for the times when he’s assisting a classmate — when that happens, Mama will need to wait because this little man does not neglect his friends.

Last night was a hot, humid summer evening. Your child smiled and greeted people; then too many people spoke to him. His cheeks became flushed, probably from the heat, but also probably from too much stimulation. He didn’t know where to place his attention, so he reacted to the heat and the over-stimulation the way that 3-year-old children do: he cried. He yelled. And because he hasn’t had the luxury of hearing as well as most of us, his cries and yells seem quite loud to us.

Guess what? That’s not his problem. That’s our problem! You know how the adults at that gathering reacted to the heat and over-stimulation? We stepped outside to get a break from everyone. We wetted the backs of our necks to cool down. We made quick, snappish remarks to others who were on our nerves. You know why we didn’t cry and yell? Because we’ve had years, even decades, of practice dealing with such situations. Your little boy has only had three and a half years of practice. He reacted the same darn way most of us would have reacted when we were his age.

Worried Mom, I want to thank you for the privilege of spending time with your beautiful child. I also want to ask you to look around you next time he acts “bratty.” Look at each of the adults who are witnessing his meltdown and imagine what a “brat” that adult must have been at 3 and a half! Then take a deep breath, trust yourself, and admire your child for being the funny, resilient, compassionate, strong-willed person that he is. Admire yourself while you’re at it, OK? I sure as heck admire you.


A Former “Bratty” Child

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: September 7, 2016
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