Monday, January 14, 2008

A look within

In general I have considered myself to be a fairly compassionate and non-judgmental person. Yesterday it was brought to my attention that my heart attitude is not always what it should be. There is a boy who plays sports with one of my son's, whom I have been guilty of harboring not so generous feelings towards. I have watched this child's interactions with his mother, watched the temper tantrums and outbursts and wondered why she did not deal with them more effectually. He suffers with ADHD, which was obvious to me immediately, but also has other behavioral and psychological issues I knew nothing about.
My husband took the time to speak with her recently and she shared a bit about her children with him. She has another child who is just entering adolescence with bi-polar disorder. This woman has been through the wringer with her children and still she has a smile and a mostly positive attitude every time I see her. She gets her son to his sporting events on her own, while also working and caring for both of these children.
I have no idea what it would be like to walk in her shoes, nor had I really tried to put myself there. In the past, when she has engaged me in conversation I have nodded (politely, I thought at the time) and made appropriate responses, but not really engaged with her. I am not really sure why except that I felt uncomfortable with her, maybe because I was judging her parenting in my heart. I feel completely ashamed.
I forgot one very important thing. There, but for the grace of God, go I. A lesson that Don Mills Diva wrote about in a very touching post. God has blessed me with healthy, wonderful, well-behaved children. They have their moments that is for sure, but I have not had to walk the path this other mother has had to walk. The doctors and psychologists and hospitals and medications. The defiance and tantrums and the wondering what the heck could I have possibly done to have my children behave this way. The finding out that there is nothing I did, but that nature made them this way. That there is no parenting technique you can learn to help your child behave better. That your child may have to be medicated for the rest of their life and if they choose as adults to go off of their meds that they could be a danger to themselves or even to other people. I have not had to make decisions about how much medication is enough for my child to function well, but not so much that they have difficulty being present and aware.
Is it terrible that I am so thankful to not have to go where she has to go? I think I can be thankful as long as that does not mean that I have a superior attitude. That I don't think I am somehow better because my kids don't have issues. I need to remember what she is going through and offer support in any way I can. Does your child need a ride? I would love to help you out. And prayer. I can pray for another mother and her children with compassion in my heart. Allow my heart to be soft and broken for another's pain.
I believe it is also my job to not sit idly by while people make snide remarks about other mothers, other people. To not just smile or ignore those statements, but to encourage understanding in my friends and acquaintances.
It is sometimes hard to look in the mirror and see things in yourself that are not pretty. Things that make you feel ashamed. But it is infinitely better to really look within and find the ugly so that it can be purged. I am thankful that God has shown my poor attitude to me so that I can work on changing it. I really do love and care about people and I want to take every opportunity to show God's love to those I encounter.

12 comments:

  1. Great post. It's true that everyone has their burdens to bear and they are not always apparent so it's crucial that we stay compassionate no matter how they may appear on the surface...

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  2. It takes a strong person to really look at their faults and try to change them. Keep up the good work.

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  3. Beautiful post.
    You know, I try also to be non-judgemental, and then I find myself just getting there and I have to stop it.
    It's hard.
    I have 5 cousins on one side - and 2 of them have mental disorders (schizophenia and ADHD) and even still I find it a little frustrating despite my attempt to not judge.

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  4. I'll jump right into this one...I have a boy with ADHD. And the thing is, I think he's perfect. (I should also add that his is a pretty mild case. He does not have the behavioural disorders so many with ADHD have, but he can be pretty wild at times).

    What gets to me is how people *judge* him when they see him from afar. Without really knowing anything about him. They make up their minds about him and, of course, about me. They think that somehow he should be calmer, and that it is my bad parenting's fault he is not. Or that he is just a bad kid.

    I honestly think that he is perfect the way he is. I would never have wanted to change him. And you know what else -- he has taught me to be more tolerant and respectful of other people's kids. That's a lesson I needed to learn, and that I am ever so grateful for.

    Your post is awesome. You have come to some super realizations. I just think you might want to not assume that she thinks her life is as terrible as it could seem from the outside. She may. But she may not. You just never know! Next time, grap that opportunity to speak with her - it could be a very interesting glimpse into a life that is so different from your own.

    Good luck. And big hugs to you :)

    Heidi

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  5. It is very hard when your children aren't "perfect" to the rest of the world. My son has ADHD as well, and I see the way people look at him. And the way they look at me when I am with him. The things you wrote are wonderful. If only everyone would take the time that you did to get to know the situation, before turning their noses up. I hope everyone who reads this is a little kinder, and a little less judgemental, the next time they encounter a situation like that.

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  6. Ah Heidi, you are very right and I apologize for coming off that way. I was writing from the point of view of hearing part of her journey but did not want to share all of what she said. I guess I am still judging, hey? Of course her life is not terrible, she loves her children immensely and although I do not know her daughter I know that her son is a very sweet and thoughtful child.
    The journey of this family has been extremely difficult, she shared some of her difficulties including lack of support of the system and community. She was sharing of her daughter's hospitalizations and her inability to cope and help her. As well as the other things I spoke of. Her son's numerous issues are also quite overwhelming for them.
    I have had numerous opportunities to work with and get to know children with ADD, ADHD, as well as FAS and learning disabilities. My feelings in this situation were a first for me and I was ashamed of my reaction, which had far less to do with diagnosis than particulars of interactions I observed.
    Regardless, I was happy of the attitude check and the reminder of the need to show care and compassion to others even when it is not your first instinct or desire.

    I will definitely take the opportunity to speak with her in the future. I love to have the opportunity to hear from other mom's and get to know them and open my heart and mind a little more.

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  7. It's definately easier sometimes to look the other way because you just don't want to have to deal someone else's problems. But we've been called to reach and help those who are suffering. I'm so glad you posted this...I need to be reminded of this as well. I've looked at another parent and judged them. My kids are well-behaved and even though we're going through some issues w/ Jacob, I'm so thankful he's still a well behaved boy.

    Thanks for being honest and sharing from your heart.

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  8. I totally love the dialogue even in the comments on this post :)

    I don't think you came off as judgmental at all - I think your reaction is totally normal. I've got a friend with an autistic child, and my first reaction was - oh, that poor girl. But you know - she *loves* her daughter above and beyond anything else in the world. And I know she wouldn't want to change her even if she could. That *still* sounds a little odd to me, but I am learning...She has terrible days, and wonderful days. Her days are more extreme than mine, but they are *her* days.

    Thank you again for such a thought-provoking post. :)

    Heidi

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  9. I really love that statement. That she wouldn't change her child for anything, that of course she loves her with her struggles, not in spite of or even because of. You love your children because they are who they are, and they are yours.

    Thank you for your insights, I love the dialogue as well. You guys are great!

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  10. Kris, I appreciate your sensitivity.

    Heidi - thanks for your insight.

    I know it's made such a difference to me when I'm struggling and alone with the kids that people offer kindness and support rather than obvious disapproval. Thanks for the reminder that I need to look for opportunities to give the same support to others:)

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  11. This is such a though-provoking post. i don't consider myself judgmental either, but there are certain things I do struggle with; mostly how others parent. I think this is because I have sacrificed everything to for my kids and when I think other people aren't doing that, I get upset. My husband is so level-headed in this area and often reminds me that we don't know the true story of what other people are going through, just like what you said. This is a neat post.

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  12. We actually went to a class on Sunday that talked about judging loved ones and others. So my husband and I have been discussing this very issue a lot lately. I know I am guilty of doing it, and have been trying not to. This is a great post!

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