There are a few things in life that bug the hell out of me. One of those things is a judgemental attitude (the bitchy kind) and the other one is when people talk a load of bullshit (bitchy or well intended).
I try to stay well away from anyone who makes me feel bad about myself or inadequate, I also keep a polite distance from those who are generally unhelpful. This is for both our benefit. When I was growing up and easily impressionable, I tolerated a lot of bullshit from a variety of different people who were either friends by default (in the group I was in) or were quite damaged individuals. I didn’t like being at home growing up so I would always tolerate the things that were said and done to me because that seemed as good as life was going to get at the time. Now I am an adult, I have a strong philosophy that if somebody is not good for me, I cut them out of my life. And I would expect exactly the same from other people. Life’s too short.
I realise that sounds harsh, and I am actually a very nice to know, loyal friend to have, but when you’ve had the experiences I have, and met some of the slightly unhinged people I’ve come across, you have to make certain changes to make sure that negativity stays out of your life! I’m talking about people who suck away your time and your energy. Emotional vampires. The people who do all the taking, and no giving. The ones who listen but don’t hear you. The ones who cannot see past their own agenda.
When the Pickle received his first diagnosis earlier this year of ‘Global Developmental Delay’ (GDD), it also fell at a time where he was getting past the point of fitting in with other mainstream children and activities we were expected to do at clubs and playgroups (everything was becoming about teamwork, instruction and taking turns) so after trying to power through with him doing normal things, and finding it harder and harder, I decided one day to put an SOS message out on my local mums Facebook page to see if anyone else was going through what I was with their child. I was sad and lonely. Nobody understood what was happening to the Pickle and me. Everyone just kept saying that the Pickle was fine and he would catch up and that their children did this too (usually followed by an example about their child that held little relevance to what I had just opened up about).
So anyway… I sent out an SOS. I was a bit terrified as it was the first time I had publicly declared to the world that my son had additional needs, but I was so miserable and judging by the NHS waiting list for the Pickles CDAC assessment (for autism) there MUST be others living locally out there too! Perhaps even feeling as miserable and isolated as I was. So where were they all?!
Two things happened from that post… Firstly, I slowly started to meet other mums including one that’s become a very good friend to me in a very short space of time. I found ladies who understood the frustration, the confusion, the sadness, the acceptance/denial, the frustrations with the NHS and the fears of sending their child to mainstream school in the same way I did. This really opened up a door for me and led to more connections with people, access to an additional needs playgroup and I finally felt validated and listened too when I spoke about the Pickle and understood by others. After a very long eighteen months, I slowly began to heal, smile, laugh and enjoy taking my son out again.
Secondly after writing that scary Facebook post, I gained the confidence to start looking for online support groups. There’s five that I have joined on Facebook, two for GDD (Global Developmental Delay) and three for ASD (autism spectrum disorder).
These groups are amazing as you can access support from a community of parents who have all been there. Questions no matter how big or small that you can’t find the answer too on your own can be posted and suddenly you have a wealth of experience from the people who experienced it a hundred times over and bought the t-shirt. I remember when the Pickle started having massive, major meltdowns and I found it very hard to cope with them. Anyone else would cheerfully tell me how their child would throw tantrums too and the Pickle was no different and not to worry (followed by a story), but any parent of an SN child knows it’s not the same. And I found the support and the help I needed to learn to cope with them through these groups. They’re great. I wouldn’t be without them…
BUT… The more groups I’ve joined, the more stories that come up on my newsfeed, and the more experience I’ve had, and the rose tinted glasses have come off and I’ve started to notice that even SN parents fall into two groups.
You get the supportive parents. The ones who don’t judge you for the things you tell them. The ones who will help you to find ways to cope when you admit that you’re not in a good place. The ones who will go out of their way to find you links, resources or put you in contact with people that will make your life easier. The ones who will gently talk you through something when perhaps you’re not seeing things as clearly as you should and you need a little guidance.
Then here comes the judgemental brigade! They bulldoze their way into your posts and they seem to be growing in number! These are the parents who when you say you wish that things were different, they jump on your post to say how they never feel that way, your child is a gift from God, you’re never given more than you can cope with, and that they NEVER feel the way that you do and nor should you. Because they all love their lives and their children. These unhelpful comments are always made on the most desperate posts by poor mums who really need a shoulder to cry on and a little understanding. Not judgement and imposed feelings of inadequacy by others because they’re not able to muster up these feelings of effortless strength. It’s self serving, self prophesied bullshit and it makes me angry seeing people pushing their own agendas to make themselves feel big, strong and important whilst making the mum who posted feel inadequate when they’re already at rock bottom. I’ve been there. It’s not a nice feeling.
We don’t ask to have children with additional needs, I don’t think any parent would choose this. Would you swap your child for one with autism? Of COURSE we love our children, we’re immensely proud of the steps and progress they make, we fight for them to the ends of the earth and we love them to the moon and back; but we all have very difficult days/weeks/months, especially in the early days when we’re still coming to terms with diagnosis’s and realisation of the lives that we did not ask for or expect. And when we’re feeling that depressed, the last thing that’s needed is a ‘know it all’ perfect parent who wants to tell you how amazing they are and how they never feel how you do. Perhaps this attitude is their way of coping and that works for them, and that’s fine! But don’t bring others down with it. It’s a horrible thing to do.
Also these judgemental parents will pick up on things you write in your posts and jump on you to tell you that your parenting your child incorrectly. This can include parenting methods (time outs, smacking, diet, TV watching etc, types of therapy you use for your child. You get the idea.) And these posts can get quite nasty. And you end up with two camps all liking their spokespersons comments and then admin have to step in and ask everyone to stop arguing and start being a supportive group whilst some poor mother who dared to post something looking for advice feels attacked, vilified and the subject of a witch hunt. It’s very uncomfortable to watch.
A few days ago, I saw a post that said “I have always treated my children the same, and my GDD child is doing really well, unlike my friend who also has a GDD child and she treats them differently to her other kids, and they’re years behind! Anyone else found this? ”
What a stupid woman. Right there, she has put down any other mother who is coping with a GDD child, who has to make adjustments or changes because of their delays and adjusted age. She has implied that if you treat your child differently to another child with a normal developmental age, your child will not thrive (unlike hers of course!) and she’s also not much of a friend to the other lady mentioned in the post if she’s saying mean and hurtful things about her children like that in such a flippant way. I wonder if people actually realise the damage that they can do.
So my point is that everywhere you go in life, even when you find places and people who can give you the help and support that you need, and you can help others, you will always ALWAYS get the ones who have their own agendas. The judgemental brigade. The dangerous ones. I feel so very very sad for the parents who can’t spot them a mile off and think there’s merit in the one sided ‘advice’ that they dish out on a poison spoon and feel bad about themselves as a result.
We are ALL brilliant parents. We are dealing with a huge curveball that life threw rudely at us and we never saw it coming. I am not afraid to say it. Sometimes it’s hard to be strong. Sometimes we feel depressed and sad and lonely and we wish things were different with our kids. Sometimes life sucks. There are many amazing moments, but there are also very sad ones too. And NOBODY has the right to tell you that your feelings are wrong or invalid. NOBODY is doing a better job than you are with their child. We are all on our own personal journey and in different places with it. If we could all just stick together and join ‘team supportive’ perhaps we could all achieve a lot more together, not just for our beautiful children, but for us as individuals, as mums, as carers, dieticians, therapists and spokespeople for our children. We are human and WE need support too.
Don’t ever settle for anybody giving you anything less.