The other day, while at the store picking us some cough medicine with James, he was in a rather irritable mood. He’s sick right now and feeling miserable. Whenever he is sick, his behavior cycles rapidly through dramatic highs and lows. It isn’t easy to gauge when those moods will change either. So, when we left the house, he was on a high laughing and smiling. Once at the store though, his anger and frustration kicked in and I knew we needed to make a quick get away. I remember saying to James, “I know you’re feeling crummy. We will only buy this one thing and then we are out of here so just try to hold it together for just a few more minutes”. In the mind of a young man with cognitive deficits, autism spectrum disorder and bipolar however, a few minutes, are like hours of horrible torture.
As I paid, James said some inappropriate things and everyone around us heard. Gasps filled the air. One mom quickly covered her child’s ears and she made a rapid get away from my, “Monster” (yes — she used that very word). What the people around me didn’t know — and certainly didn’t even consider — was the possibility that James has hidden disabilities that impact his ability to cope. Sigh. Why is it so hard to consider for one moment that there might just be more going on than meets the eye???
As James behavior escalated, all I wanted to do was get out of there away from the stares and shaking heads. As the clerk handed me my change and we began to make our get away, a man looked at me and sharply said, “If he was my kid, I’d introduce him to this.” — and then he raised a clenched fist right in front of my face. Thankfully, James was so preoccupied with wanting to get home, he didn’t even see the man. So, exasperated I pushed around him and rushed James to the car.
Once home, James headed straight to his room and slept for the next three hours. I went to my room and sobbed. After so many years of people telling me how’d they handle my son, my frustration had peaked with that man’s stupid fist.
Quiet no more — I want the world to know
- There are thousands of parents who are tirelessly raising their children with disabilities. Note I said tirelessly. But honestly, that isn’t totally true. While we will never grow tired of our children and our love for them has no end, we are often physically and emotionally EXHAUSTED and HAGGARD. Sometimes, we are utterly CONFUSED. Please understand our fragile hearts caused by hope deferred.
- There isn’t a day we don’t question ourselves and how we are parenting our child. We’ve read books, consulted with experts, done countless therapies and yet there are just days and times when NONE of it WORKS. NONE. OF. IT. And yet we keep on trying again and again and again.
- We DO NOT regret having our child. WE LOVE THEM. They are our TREASURES and that will NEVER change.
- We do however HATE people who look down their noses at us and our kids — Our days are challenging enough without you bringing your judgment and arrogance into our world.
- If you can’t be supportive and understanding then don’t bud in. Its NOT helpful and instead very hurtful.
- If however you can offer a smile, an encouraging word or even a hug WE WILL TAKE IT. Kindness and compassion can take an awful day and turn it around.
- A fist NEVER solves ANYTHING. A fist NEVER heals ANYTHING. A fist is the lazy mans way out. The road less traveled of unconditional love is the road we CHOOSE and whether you like it or not, it is far more powerful and life transforming than any fist or act of violence could ever bring.
- We CHOOSE love. We CHOOSE to stand with our kids to protect them from your stares and your shame. We will always stand with them — because LOVE NEVER FAILS.
So, the next time you see a tired mom or dad standing in the store with their over six-foot son who just isn’t acting as you’d like, instead of being the nightmare of the day, STOP and instead choose to be kind, compassionate and caring. Smile at them. Tell them a funny story you’ve had with your kids where things didn’t go as you would choose – find a way to ease their burden. Find a way to create hope through love.
I am a far better person because James is my son. Before he came, I thought I had it all figured out and I likely would have been one who rudely counseled a tired mom or dad at the grocery store when their child with a hidden disability acted out. Because of James though, I have grown in compassion and have learned to give more of myself than I ever dreamed I could. Because I love him, I’ve learned to persevere with him, and hope for him no matter how bad the day is. He has grown my heart many, many times over and I am so very proud to be his mom.
Because I know James’ heart I will never allow those few bad moments in the store define him. He is the most gentle of souls. He is tender-hearted and kind. Though he struggles mightily, he also loves deeply. He is an overcomer and never ceases to amaze me.
I have learned through James that loving someone who struggles is an honor. He is my joy. I am so incredibly proud of James and because of this, my Mama’s hearts cry is that others would know and love him too.