Messy Parenting

Parenting, at the best of times, is a challenge.  Parenting a child who has special needs adds another layer to the expectations we have for ourselves and the message that others around us may be conveying.  The reality of how photoshopped and edited our world is, can add a layer of pain to an already difficult situation.

The other day I was in a second hand store where there were many people milling about, browsing and finding treasures.  The steady drone of people noise was suddenly punctuated with the shrill, harsh and intense cries of a young child in distress.  The cries, as cries do, pierced every person in that store with its intensity.  It seemed to go on forever… for everyone.

As I continued to look for the second hand treasure I hoped to find, it became apparent that the child had some special needs.

As the cries continued, it appeared that the rest of people in the store had polarized reactions to the situation ranging from judgement to compassion.  The flow of both positive and negative energy was palpable.

People who expressed judgement looked at each other, huffed and even engaged with strangers about what what the care-giver aught to do.  Eye rolling and grimacing were expressions that were visible to everyone else including the care giver.  Their response to the pain of the situation said, “Not on my watch”.

Then there were people whose face expressed a different kind of pain; there was a gentleness about their expression.  It seemed to say “That’s hard.  I’ve felt that struggle before and it’s not easy.” They stepped into empathy. They took the perspective of the people in struggle and they stayed out of judgement.  “When we know our own darkness well enough, we can be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” Pema Chodron

The care-giver managed herself remarkably well.  I know, from my own parenting experience, that there have been times when my kids were acting less than Pinterest worthy and found myself looking to see if there was disapproval around me.  This woman courageously stayed focused on the needs of the child and didn’t appear flustered, even in the space of judgement.  I was in awe.  This was hard.  This takes work.

As I walked out of the store, the Theodore Roosevelt quote that’s become so special to me, came to the front of my mind:

“It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error nor shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds….”

It’s not the critic who counts.

Which voice will you choose to share today?

Which voice will you choose to focus on today?

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