Monday, September 26, 2011

GBE Challenge: Judgment

It is the autumn of recovery in our home, and, by recovery, I certainly don't mean that we are all lying on the sofa contemplating the proverbial bombs that have exploded in front of us in recent months. In fact, bombs are still exploding, but my husband and I are digging out of the hole we feel we are in as a result of living in crisis mode for so long.

The crisp autums air has given me clarity, and I'm feeling the need to launch into warrior status, attacking this house and our lives from all angles in order to gain control. I've cleaning, dumping, donating and organizing. I've had it with living within chaos while also dealing with chaos.

And, yes, I realize that life breeds chaos and kids breed mess, but, c'mon, people!

And, as for that little boy who doesn't sleep? We've had it. For nearly ten years we've worked with him. He's gone in and out of cycles with it, and we've tried all that we can to work nicely, and now we are so strung out that our entire existence is fried.

This weekend, as I was hauling things to the curb, garage and to trash cans, I heard the familiar sound of my husband drilling into our son's bedroom door. He was installing a lock.

He did this years ago, when our young child was wandering aimlessly in the middle of the night. He was a danger to himself, and it was heartwrenching for us to make the decision to lock OUR CHILD into his own bedroom.

This was the day that I realized that we operated by different rules than most of society. And, while most other special needs parents have affirmed our parenting methods, well, as parents, my husband and I have found it difficult to retrain our own minds over the years.

"You should have seen the look on his face," my husband said to me when he came downstairs after installing this second batch of locks. "It was as if he was saying, 'Oh, you guys are going to do this again to me?'"

"I'm sure you are reading into it," I tried to assure him. "I bet he was watching your installation for mistakes that he can use against us later."

Despite my words of assurances, I knew exactly what my husband meant. I knew how he felt: what kind of parent would lock up his/her own child? Yes, we understand that we have a severely disabled child who is unsafe and who has a disability that needs shaping. We know that we are right outside the door. HE knows that we are right outside the door. Still, it feels awful. Even we judge ourselves.

I can't say how many times along this path I visit that feeling of judgment.

When we first realized that our son had gastric issues, he was just two years old. We weren't sure exactly the problem, but we were given a plan of action conduct a food elimination in order to see what was upsetting his system. Several gastric procedures later would affirm what these food eliminations told us, but, still, when taking away a tasty food from a toddler, you are bound to judge if this is the right step. When hearing from people around you say that your actions are mean and unfair to that child, sure, you are going to judge your actions as a parent.

Beneath the critical eye of others, my husband and I have learned to just plow forward in the names of our children, but that doesn't mean that we don't ever judge our actions, silently or to each other. It's a difficult burden to bear.

Parents--and I would venture further to say MOTHERS--are incredibly hard on one another, looking at one another through such a critical lens. Is that other person feeding her baby by breast or by bottle? Does she cry-it-out or feed on demand? How quickly is the baby toilet trained? Is she speaking Japanese by three? (lol).

Why do we do this? I hear the criticism in quiet circles all the time. ALL THE TIME.

The truth of the matter is that, while I have found much laughter doing it, it has challenged me. And, it has also broken me. I'm sure not going to spend time picking apart another's parenting when I have enough challenges of my own.

Let me go on record as saying: there is nothing anyone can say about my parenting that I haven't said to myself. Parenting is the most difficult job I have ever encountered. I have judged myself for my efforts probably harder than any of my harshest critics.

But, don't worry, I got over it.

My trick was turning 40. I've come to the decision that with age either comes blissful ignorance, resignation, wisdom or a combination of all three.

When I turned forty, I released it. If at age forty, ten years into parenting with special needs, I wasn't competant enough to make a reasoned decision for my children, I figured worrying wasn't going to help me. And, frankly, I know that I am doing a good job.

The hurdle was learning to live and let live.

I hope that parents who are traveling down the path of special needs behind me take a little less time to learn this lesson than I did.


  1. That's an important lesson for everyone, parents or not. Live and let live.

    We do the best we can. If we're not, we need to step it up, but if we truly are, then we need to stop beating ourselves up.

    By the way, I know that I've told you before, but I'll say it again. I think you do an amazing job in very difficult circumstances.

  2. :). You are so supportive. xoxo. Love, MFP

  3. Amy, again...please hear me say this, I am a parent and a grand parent and I have never sacrificed as you continue to do for those beautiful and blessed boys. And for the record, we installed locks on our kids bedroom doors (on the outside) when they went from crib to big kid beds because it was safer and we were able to sleep through the night. No wandering munchkins doing whatever and then waking us to share their sleeplessness. They all survived and I would do it again.
    Safety first and finally, get some well earned rest you two.

    Keep sharing with us, you teach us all so much.

    <3 :)

  4. Hey I am absolutely sure that the lock on my door wasn't because I roamed the house and undressed my sisters in the middle of the night. Who needs dolls when you have siblings.
    You have a great challenges and a great attitude.
    Hang in there. :)

  5. I got a lot of dirty looks because I put my older daughter in a harness and leash. People said I was treating her like a dog. I replied that at least she was a safe dog. Without the leash, she would have been a dead one, she was so quick and adventurous. Your challenges are so much greater than mine were. You do what you have to do.

  6. My father talks about being put on a leash of sorts. lol. I've put my own son, the bolter, on a leash. I don't know if society just cycles in and out of trends, perhaps, or if I've collected a small group of people with a common belief.

    Would I have locked my child in his room had he not been born with needs? I don't think so. How about the harness/leash? I don't know. I think that's my point. How do you know unless you are in the situation (and one of your kids is undressing your other kids in the middle of the night! LOLOL!!!)

    I never thought that I would have been confronted with some of the things that I've seen during my years as a parent. None of this stuff was in my line of sight when I was childless and sitting up on a pedistal. Haha.

    After having kids--and after having special kids--I really understand why my mom would sometimes hide in the bathroom to get away from me! Hey, it was the forerunner of The Mom Cave!

  7. It is often hard to live and let live and not feel guilt. I have found that I am my biggest critic and my worst judge. Wonderful post on judgment!


  8. We're all just trying to get through parenting without our kids ending up on the evening news for all the wrong reasons. Please don't feel bad for doing what you have to do to get through the day. Or the night.

  9. Thanks for reading and commenting, everyone. I'm going to take a chance here and be honest about the source of my husbnad's and my judging ourselves.

    Nearly a decade ago, there was even less known about autism as there is now, and I think that an awful lot of burden was--is it still?--placed on the parents' shoulders. We were told that we could "cure" our child if we did x,y or z. And, well, if that didn't work, then perhaps we needed to try q,r and s. In addition to those things, educationally and behaviorally, our child's future, we ewre told, could entirely be shaped by a,b,c and d. Walk the line. Keep our eyes on "declassification" in the later years. It's a very tough situation to put parents in. I've heard some parents say their actions have worked. I've heard others say it hasn't. Along the way, a lot of money is spent, a child grows and behaviors develop. Life and strain happen. There is no easy fix. God Bless those that have found it. For the rest of us, live, love and let live.

  10. Women usually love to bully other women; I just ignore them and sometimes when I'm fed up after a long day (my daughter's Autistic too and she's 4) I'll say something nasty lol