Friday, August 3, 2012

open letter to another mom

Dear fellow mom,
I see that you have two children.  We have that in common, though my oldest was not with me today.  Just as our two kids are different from their siblings, I can assure you that my son is different from your two.  
I am sorry that my son’s crying bothered you.  But that’s what he does sometimes, he cries.  Not for milk.  Not for food.  He just cries.  Usually it is because he is in pain.  Today, that pain was teething.  Pain combined with a new environment, a lot of people, and a touch too much stimulation.  So, he did the only thing he knew at that moment to do--he cried.  
Perhaps you were too busy with your children to notice, but I tried a few different strategies to soothe him.  Sometimes when he cries, he wants to nurse but he will defiantly pull away until he realizes that he can nurse.  Sometimes, he wants to be put on the ground so he can move on his own.  I tried both, to no avail.  At times he will be so frustrated or in pain that he forgets to use his ASL.  He may want to eat, but cannot sign it.  So, I offered him food.  I even offered him a toy and some water.  He did not want any of those things.
At one point, I stood and moved around the room--even out of the room--to see if he’d calm down.  He did not.  So I returned to my seat near you to just hold him, talk to him calmly, and let him wind down on his own.
When you suggested that I “take him outside,” I was too polite then to tell you how I really felt.  I told you that my son is delightfully willful, but I would have loved to have told you that sometimes kids cry and there just is no magic wand that will stop them.  Sometimes, the best thing that a mom can do is just to be there, to let them know that mom or dad is there.  Sometimes, they just need to cry and all that we can do is hold them, talk softly to them, and let them fuss.
I can understand to a degree why his crying might have bothered you.  See, my daughter never cried like that.  She was a very easy baby, and a pretty mellow toddler.  But my son is very different.  Prior to him, I probably would have felt tempted to do what you did upon seeing a mom and child like us.  I would have wanted to make suggestions on how to get the kid to be quiet.  But I would have kept my mouth shut and silently felt sympathy for the mom.
Tell you what, I’ll tell you what you should have done and what you can do in future.  When you see a mom struggling with an upset child.  Tell her that you feel for her, and you’re proud of her for not melting into sobs, too.  Tell her that you’re glad that she is managing to keep it together, even though it is tremendously stressful.  Tell her that you’re happy to see a mom who doesn’t just smack her kid when s/he is being loud/crying/being defiant.  In other words, show some support and encouragement instead of criticism.  
By the way, you probably failed to notice that as I sat with him, held him, and talked to him, he eventually calmed down.  Alas, he continued to cry a bit, but he did wind down.  And because I calmly continued to be there, to hold him, respond to him, and talk to him, he learned that I will be there for him, even when times are tough.
Oh, and he did continue to cry a touch even after we were outside.  So much for your theory.
We’re home now, and he back to being a happy chap.  He tends to be happier in familiar places.  He’s chewing on his fingers occasionally, so I know that his teeth are still bothering him, but he is managing well.  Probably in part because he is learning that  his parents love him and accept him as he is, in any given moment, crying or no.
A mom to a high-needs child
My sweet, but high-needs boy with his loving dad

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