I would say Justice was probably two, maybe three years old. We were leaving a local grocery store when he was having a meltdown in the car. Honestly, I can’t remember if the meltdown happened before we got in the car, or because we got in the car.
Regardless, he was not happy. He was screaming, hitting, pulling on his clothes, fighting me to get out of his car seat as I was struggling to get him to sit back down so I could buckle him in.
It was horrible, but it was normal. It was our normal. The part that makes it memorable is there was an older gentlemen getting into the car next to us. I didn’t even notice him until he hollered at me just before he slammed his door shut, “Smack him!” and quickly drove off.
I was dumbfounded.
What had happened? Really?
What I wanted to yell back at him was, “Who are you? Who are you to give advice on a situation you know nothing about? And where are you everyday, five times a day, when this happens every time he is over stimulated?”
You see my son wasn’t acting out. He wasn’t being bad. He wasn’t being defiant.
He was hurting. He was struggling to get control of his body. He was trying to make everything he sensed to just STOP!
I knew that. I wasn’t happy about it, but I had learned there was nothing I could do about it. I wasn’t going to yell and scream back at him. I wasn’t going to threaten him. And I certainly wasn’t going to beat him.
I just did the best I could. I calmly talked to him to, “Let’s sit down, Sweetie. We need to get home. I know you don’t want to. We’ll be home soon. It’s ok. It’s ok. It’s ok.” I stopped his little body from arching back, and firmly but gently pushed his belly back into his seat to be buckled.
You see, I’ve learned parenting kids who are different, will look different to parents whose kids aren’t different. This man had no idea of the sensory overload my child was experiencing.
He didn’t know that he didn’t like to be touched. He didn’t know he didn’t like change. He didn’t know my little guy processed the world differently.
It took me years to know this myself. He didn’t come with an instruction manual. He was a lot like getting a puzzle without a picture on the box. I had no idea what to expect.
For years doctors couldn’t help us. So I turned to books. They didn’t offer much help or hope either. We had to figure him out, together.
Two or three years of meltdowns, five times a day, absolutely makes me my child’s expert on what to do and not do and more importantly, what works and what doesn’t.
Smacking my kid never helped. Punishing him or taking things away always made things worse. Shrinking down to his level and acting like a two year old that wasn’t getting her way, was disastrous.
See, I learned stuff.
Today, I would just like to offer some encouragement to anyone who is raising a child who is different. I know the looks you get. I know the unsolicited advice you get from family, friends and yes, even strangers. My encouragement to you, is this.
Ignore them. If you are doing something, you are doing it right.
You are your child’s expert. Never give up learning what that means. Your child depends on it!
They are your children for a reason. Find that reason.
And love your child! Hate what makes them different, but love who they are.