Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bad Parenting? It's all about Perspective.

Years ago, I was at a stoplight. In my rear view mirror, I saw an acquaintance in the car behind me. I sloppily threw my hand up in a half-hearted wave. In my mirror, I saw the acquaintance give a look of surprise. To my utter embarrassment, I realized that person thought I gave them a nasty, obscene gesture. I didn't, of course. I knew I had my index finger up while I gave my wave. My perspective: I was saying hello.

But, the perspective of the driver behind me: I was saying something entirely different.

The truth was found in my perspective. But, it didn't really matter. That person saw what she saw. From her vantage point, she had an entirely different story to tell from that chance encounter on the road.

Perspectives are funny. Sometimes, one's perspective is entirely wrong even though they would swear they had it right.
Imagine seeing a four year old child throw a tantrum in Wal-mart. It's not too hard to imagine. What would you think as you walked by the child throwing himself down and crying? What would you think of his mother? What kind of things would come to mind? Would you think the child was a brat? Do you think his mother can't control her son?

Now, would your thoughts change if I told you that child had autism? It would change my opinion. What if you imagined the child protesting had Down syndrome? Would that make a difference in some of your thought processes? What if you knew the child was nonverbal? Would it make a difference? It would for me.

There are people who are very opinionated about parents of children with special needs. Some of the most opinionated people I have found are 1. professionals who work with this population and 2. family members.
It's easy to say, "If that was me, I'd never do ___." Or, "If that was my child, ____ would be so different."

It's very easy to say these things and to form a wrong perspective when YOU are not the one living it day in and day out, hardly ever getting a break.
There are some things people say that really bug me. These things include, parents of children with special needs:
-baby their children too much.
-don't work with their children enough.
-don't discipline their children enough.
-tolerate too many bad behaviors.
I admit that all four of these sayings have been true about me at one time or another. It's not easy being a parent. It's far more complicated when your child has special needs. For me, I have struggled with finding a balance between being Jaycee's mom, nurse, and teacher. At times, I have been too stressed or emotionally tired to care about certain issues (like school work). I have struggled to discipline a child who communicates non-verbally. There have been times when I have let her "get away" with stuff I normally wouldn't because I'm just glad she's alive after a health scare. I'm not a perfect parent.

But, can't all four of those statements be applied to almost every parent in the world? It doesn't just go with the special needs population. But because these kids with special needs often have poor communication skills, their "bad" behaviors may be more obvious. Still, I have seen a "typical" 3 year old with a pacifier, when they don't really need a pacifier anymore. These awful parents baby their child! How dare they? I have witnessed children whose parents are not involved in their school work because they work long hours. I see parents of typically developing children unable to successfully keep their child in a seat at a restaurant. I have seen parents let their child do and say things that are inappropriate. I have heard a two year old curse without any sort of reaction from his parents.  
There is no perfect parent. We, as parents, all do things for a certain reason. Our perspective of our own child and parenting is one that is rationale and completely logical. The things we do. The things say. The things we allow. In our perspective, it's all reasonable. But, someone else may view our decisions, actions, and language in a negative light.

Perspective. It's important to understand that you may form an opinion on someone else's actions but you will never, ever truly know what it's like from their viewpoint. And just like the person behind me at the stoplight, you may just get it all wrong.

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