It Takes a Village

So, the other day a mother of a special little someone wrote about how she was tired of being judged when she goes out with her son. He is just a wee little baby, and you can’t tell he has special needs just by looking at him. She went out, after spending time getting him ready for the trip, probably looking for a bit of normalcy in a crazy new life. She felt the stares from other people when he started to cry. Crying that is not so easily assuaged with the typical remedies. Cries that often start from things beyond anyone’s control. Even armed with this knowledge, she still felt the pain of those looks. Looks that said, ” why aren’t you taking care of that poor thing?” Looks that made you feel like a bad mother, when the opposite is true.

When she shared that, I was reminded of numerous times I felt the same. One such time takes precedence in my memories. Wawoo was 9 months old when we discovered she had hip dysplasia. She needed to be in a cast that went from her lower chest to her ankles. I cringe and break out into a sweat just remembering those hellish 6 weeks, dealing with a baby in a body cast, who had dystonic, writhing body movements, g-tube and in diapers.  The smells, the rubbed raw skin, the tears. Believe me,  I didn’t go out with her unless I really needed to. Needing to equated, doctor visits, grocery runs, or moments when there was desperate need to feel typical in a world turned upside down.

Each time I went out with my child in her cast, in her stroller, up and down grocery aisles, sitting in doctor waiting rooms, or trying to breathe in the sunshine on a park bench, I would look up and meet the suspicious eyes of someone. A mother with her children, a horrified grandparent, gossipy friends whispering behind hands, and I would shrivel up inside. I would feel shame and anger rush through my body. I would feel defensive of myself, my child, my situation. I would think it was none of their business, but still feel affected, after all, their narrowed eyes and sizing me up glances told me that they “knew” a child as small as Wawoo ( She looked all of 2 months) couldn’t possibly put herself in a cast. Someone did that to her. Someone in charge of her care. I remember going home angry, or crying, or belligerent. I remember complaining to her therapists about it and joking that next time someone looked at me like that, while Wawoo was screaming bloody murder, I was going to shake my fist at Wawoo and yell,” Shut up! Or I’ll break your other leg.” Just for the satifaction of seeing their shocked faces and knowing they were wrong to think that of me. I remember that made me laugh hysterically and then sob hysterically.

We all have that in us, that judgment. We look at a situation on the surface and somehow “know”. Know that the situation can be handled better. Know what that child needs. Know what the parent is doing wrong. Know so much. Or at the very least, suspect. When in fact, we know nothing.

We don’t know what that child is dealing with, or that mother. We don’t know  what is right. We DO know that we hate being the subject of that scrutiny, yet we take part in it nonetheless. What makes us so happy to jump to judgement? I suspect it is that we live with feeling a lack in our parenting abilities and so we gleefully think, ” well, she is worse.”

Instead we should really live that quote, It takes a village to raise a child. That doesn’t just mean we must all be there for said child, that also means we must be there for each other. For we all go through so much difficulty and heartbreak, so much joy and sadness. It is better to only judge that which we are sure of and to lift one another in compassion and empathy. Life itself is hard enough without the rest of us trying to knock each other down a peg. We can be the sunshine in someone’s life, even a stranger, even a friend, even a loved one, even for a moment, even for a lifetime,  even without knowing.