As humans we love to compare things. We love to determine which of this is better than that and be the one to tell everyone about it. We get credit for recommending the best chocolate one has ever had and we like to be recognized for it. But we also have a tendency to compare and judge negatively. And sometimes we’re not even trying to be mean about it, but we are, in fact, making judgments.
In the past few years I’ve tried really hard to stop. It’s hard though when we believe something so strongly that what is best for us is best for everyone else too. The saying “walk a mile in another man’s shoes” is so true and the fact is, everyone is dealing with something. I try to stay fit, eat healthy and when I see an overweight person sitting at a stop light eating a Big Mac… I shake my head and think, “how can they be that overweight and still think it’s ok to eat that?” And as hard as it is for me to justify being overweight and out of shape and still eating super-sized fast food meals, it’s not my place to make, or EXPRESS, any sort of judgment about it.
You’re in the grocery store. You hear the kid crying, begging for the candy bar… having a complete fit because he’s not getting it. There’s the crying baby on the airplane. The kid having a meltdown at the mall. We’ve all seen it. Our reaction? “Those parents have no control over their child and that child needs some discipline.” I’ve done it, and most of you have too. Here’s something that maybe we don’t understand or think about. What if that child has sensory issues? What if that child has a disability? When we walk into a grocery store, most of us have the ability to block out the buzzing of the fluorescent lights, the hum of the freezers, the tag rubbing on the back of your neck, the squeaky wheel on the cart, the smell of the seafood department and the chatter of 200 people. What if you couldn’t? Don’t you think all that noise and chaos might make you want to cry? Add on top of that, a parent, the one person with them they trust, getting mad at them for not being “good” in the store.
We make these judgments because we are comparing. If you have a typically developing kid who has the ability to focus, listen and comprehend what you’re asking them to do in a store full of stimuli, chances are you’re going to have a fairly successful trip to the store. That’s great for you. But when you see my kid with Autism, who REALLY doesn’t want to be at the store because it’s a sensory overload experience for him, please don’t assume it’s my parenting.
Recently we were at a hotel and went to the swimming pool. There was a family there with four children. Rye was trying hard to get them to play with him. Socially, things are awkward for him and finding/making friends is difficult because he has a hard time interacting with peers. These four kids really didn’t want to play with Rye, probably because he said something off the wall like “hey guys, want to play light sabers?” They were probably thinking “in a pool? you want to play light sabers in a pool???” He persisted, they insisted on not playing with him and one thing led to another and one of the kids splashed him in the face. I could see the look in his eyes as he got out of the pool and walked toward their mom to tattle on them. I said “Rye, no. Come here.” He was mad as a hornet, looked at me and stopped walking toward the mother who was just beginning to notice his mood. He WAS going to listen to me, but he wasn’t done making his point. Rye turned toward the pool and did a classic cannon ball about three feet from these kids. The family was a little stunned, decided it was time to go and gathered their things. They walked by the table where I was sitting and I heard the mother say to one of the kids, “what is wrong with that kid?” I stood up, approached her and said “I’m sorry for that, and not that it should excuse his actions, but he has Autism and sometimes it’s hard for him to interact with other kids in a social environment.” She grabbed my arm and apologized. “I had no idea.” Exactly.
This is not an isolated incident, it happens a lot. Christmas Eve dinner at a restaurant a woman told Tara that she needed to “get control of her child.” Within a week of the swimming pool incident, another person told me “maybe you need to control your kid.” Then of course there’s my blog about Wyatt’s basketball practice. What I want to say in response to these people is something like, “shut the f@#! up.” What I usually do is apologize and be assumed a terrible parent with a spoiled child.
Before we criticize someone for having a dirty car, or being overweight, or not having “control over their bad child” or not doing something the way we would do it… think about what it is that could possibly take precedence over whatever we’re judging them for. Does their husband have cancer? Have they just lost their job? Did she and her sister just have a fight? Do they have a medical condition? Does their kid have a disability? Here’s my new method for stopping the judgment. Every time I see someone do something I wouldn’t, I look at myself and determine how the person I’m judging, could judge me back. That usually does it.
Most all of us are doing the best we can and our best shouldn’t be put on a scale.