I just read this post by ThetaMom about being judged for her child’s behavior in public places. The blogosphere is rife with stories about parents failing to teach their children that staring and pointing at a child with differences is rude and how to interact with a child who is different.
I have had similar experiences. I had a child in a wheelchair who didn’t handle certain situations well (especially loud noises and unpredictable situations), and now I have a loud tantrum-thrower and a cryer. I’ll never forget the kind words of one mom in the freezer section of a grocery store one afternoon when the kids were screaming and crying, and I was holding in my own screaming and crying by the barest thread. I knew everyone around me heard and saw the scene, and I was ashamed and frustrated and just wanted to get the task done and get out of there as fast as I could so it would be over. This woman walked up, and I braced myself for criticism. But instead she said, “You’re doing a great job. Hang in there.” I burst into tears at the unexpected comfort she offered to me in that moment of extreme need. This is what we women need to do for one another.
I propose that we initiate a universal mother’s creed and require all mothers to read and sign this statement when they fill out their child’s naming document in the hospital.
As a newly-admitted member of the group called “mothers,” I accept as my solemn duty the responsibility to raise this child to be an independent functional member of society.
As part of this responsibility of motherhood, I will:
…remember how impossible this task is, how much support and encouragement each mother needs to keep at it, and endeavor to provide as much support and encouragement as I can along the way
…never offer my opinion unless specifically asked
…never offer advice unless specifically asked
…speak words of encouragement to another struggling mother (not words like “If I were you, I’d do this” but words like “Hang in there. You’ll make it. This too shall pass. I’ve been there.”)
…lend a hand to another struggling mother when possible
…teach my child basic manners, including not to stare or point at a child who looks or sounds or acts different
…teach my child to say hello and to learn about a child who is different instead of being afraid and walking away
Moms, will you accept this responsibility to your children and especially to the sisterhood of mothers?